The Hari Putar Dialogues - 72
(The Economic Times ; New Delhi ; 22 August : The massive traffic jams after rains pounded the capital led an unlikely passenger to take the Metro on Friday night. The passenger was none other than Rahul Gandhi. Rahul took the Metro to reach as close as possible to his 10 Janpath home after he returned to the Capital from Raipur after a two-day visit to Chhattisgarh, according to a security official. The AICC general secretary after landing at the IGIA took a detour and went to nearby Metro station at Dwarka to board the underground train that took him to Rajiv Chowk station, about two kms from his home. Rahul covered a substantial part of his journey home by the Metro train. Traffic on all arterial roads in the capital went haywire for several hours after the heavy rains and hundreds of vehicles remained stuck for varying durations in the snarls. )
Putar: There is a report in The Economic Times today that Rahul Gandhi took a metro to get home from the airport.
Hari: Surely there wouldn?t be a shortage of cars for someone who is touted by the Congress Party as the future Prime Minister of the country. Or was he simply trying it out?
Putar: No shortage of cars for the AICC General Secretary as you say. Rather, the problem was that there were too many cars on the road. Rahul took the Metro because of the traffic jams all over the capital?s roads.
Hari: Such a bad traffic situation?
Putar: Exactly. Rain pounded the capital so badly that there were traffic jams everywhere. Some people say it took car drivers two hours to get from Defence Colony to Friends Colony. They could have covered the distance walking in far less time.
Hari: Even though this was torrential rain, in general every time it rains traffic comes to a standstill. All attention is focused on completing the metro by the time the Commonwealth Games are due to begin in Delhi. What about the rest of the infrastructure? That too needs to be improved.
Putar: The whole world will be watching. This will be the largest multi sport event to be ever held in Delhi, or for that matter in India.
Hari: When are the Commonwealth Games being held by the way?
Putar: Between the 3rd of October and the 14th of October 2010. That?s a good time to host them. No summer heat. And no rains.
Hari: That?s true.
Putar: Rahul Gandhi took the Metro because of the traffic jam in the capital. That shows a practical mindset, a good quality for a leader but no virtue beyond that.
Hari: I understand some senior corporate executives too have started taking the Metro because of the convenience.
Putar: Here the grandson is avoiding traffic jams in the capital, but earlier according to Lord Mountbatten?s memoirs soon after independence, in the beginning there were traffic jams in the capital on account of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru.
Hari: What?s the story?
Putar: According to the episode narrated in his book, on a particular day soon after independence Lady Mountbatten was coming to see Nehru. She was late for their meeting and Panditji remarked on it. And then she explained that she was late only because traffic had been stopped, including the vehicle in which she was being driven, because his ? the Prime Minister?s ? motorcade had been passing.
Hari: Interesting irony. And then?
Putar: Apparently Nehru took steps to make sure this didn?t happen anymore.
Hari: I wish other politicians would learn from his example.
Putar: Tell me something, Papaji.
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Most of the newspapers carried a report on how Rahul Gandhi had taken the Metro.
Hari: I suppose this is a newsworthy item.
Putar: We can take pride in the Metro ? but we could have been proud of Rahul Gandhi as well had he taken the Metro without their having been a traffic jam in the city.
Hari: You mean if he had traveled in an ordinary manner using ordinary means of transport?
Hari: That?s true. It would have been more impressive. We can be proud of the Metro and India?s progress in general, but we can be proud of our leaders as well if they use ordinary but comfortable means of transport. If they put the virtue of simple practicality before pomp and show.
Putar: In London, and other European cities it is apparently not uncommon for Ministers to use the Metro to avoid the traffic.
Hari: And their traffic problems are possibly not as severe.
Putar: Once the Metro gets functional perhaps we will have more and more important people, including politicians using public transport.
Hari: Possibly. But many of them wouldn?t like to rub shoulders with the common man, especially during rush hour. At the same time there may be politicians who use the Metro not out of genuine simplicity but just to flaunt to the public how simple they are.
Putar: That?s true. So can we say that while we can be proud of the Metro, we can be truly proud of India?s achievements the day someone like Rahul Gandhi takes the Metro and it is not reported in the newspapers ? because our political culture has changed so much that this is no longer a news worthy item. Do you think that is likely to happen anytime soon?
Hari: I don?t know, Putar.