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First Metro Men of India  
1 Answers
Sep 18 2011 (08:15)

Entry# 747     
First Metro Men of India

Sep 18 2011 (08:14)
News Entry# 38967  Metro men  
Posted by: rdb*^   Added by: rdb*^  Sep 18 2011 (08:15)
The two men who drove the country’s first metro rail recount that momentous day.It is a memory for a lifetime, our moment in history,” says Sanjoy Kumar Sil, flipping through the old photographs with his colleague, Tapan Kumar Nath. Sil and Nath were the driving motorman and the conducting motorman, respectively, of India’s first underground train, the first Kolkata Metro rail, which rolled out on October 24, 1984.Nearly 27 years down the line, that historic day is still fresh in their memory. It was ekadashi, the last day of Durga Puja, which is largely considered to be inauspicious. But instructions came from the top and superstitions were promptly put aside. The inauguration was scheduled for 8:30 am and the first train was to start from Esplanade in central Kolkata to Bhowanipur Station (now known as Netaji Bhavan Station), covering a distance of 3.40 km with five stations in between. When Sil...
arrived at the Esplanade metro station at 7 in the morning, he hadn’t quite expected the scene that greeted him. There was utter frenzy, in typical Kolkata spirit.
“It was as though the whole city had descended at the station to be part of the first journey. We, in our uniforms, were welcomed as heroes and were escorted by the Railway Protection Force to the metro station,” says Nath, his eyes lighting up in excitement. “The passengers who boarded the first metro from Esplanade to Bhowanipur station were completely awestruck at this technically-advanced underground railway. They simply refused to get off at the final station; the RPF had to request them to disembark and let the ones waiting at the station board,” he laughs. This excitement of the people and the reluctance to disembark the train even after reaching their destination continued for many days.Sil and Nath became heroes who were featured by both local and national media. The motormen had been engine drivers with the Indian Railways. To switch to the Metro, they underwent a year-long training programme, besides two months of additional training in Moscow and Leningrad in Russia. “The training included both practical and theoretical knowledge along with firsthand experience of driving commercial vehicles in Moscow,” recalls Nath.Being a first in the country also meant additional responsibility. Besides ensuring that the passengers were in safe hands, a major awareness campaign was launched for the citizens. “Kolkata Metro Rail (KMR), in association with Kolkata Doordarshan, made small television capsules that were telecast regularly along with a host of radio and newspaper ads telling the citizens not to lean on the sliding door, not to overcrowd the coaches, and so on,” says Sil. “KMR wanted to incorporate the best technologies available in the West. The technology was borrowed from Germany but was domestically-made in Bangalore.”British newspaper The Independent rated KMR higher than the underground transport system in London and Paris in the ‘80s. Over the years, the metro has spread across Kolkata, including the extreme southern fringes of the city with Kabi Subhash metro station, popularly known as New Garia. “We share a paternal attachment with the metro railway. We have seen it grow in front of our eyes and every honour to it brings us pride, while its criticism directly pinches our heart,” says Nath who is now serving KMR as Chief Loco Inspector. Sil retired in 2001 but remains a metro man to the core.
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