Free Press Journal

India’s Railway Man, A biography of E. Sreedharan: Review


Title of the book: India’s Railway Man, A biography of E. Sreedharan
Author: Rajendra B. AKlekar
Publisher: Rupa Publication India Pvt Ltd
Pages: 253
Price: Rs. 295

Dilip Kumar starrer, Naya Daur perfectly depicted the idealism of Gandhi in the era of Nehru. The Nehru era kick-started with the commencement of first five year plan and lot of writers, directors articulated Nehru’s vision in their works. With the dawn of the globalization Sharukh Khan emerged as the hero of Non Resident Indians but hardly any director or writer articulated the nation building aspirations of new India. The success stories of Infosys and Wipro are very much there but they did not catch the popular imagination so is the story of E. Sreedharan, popularly known as India’s Railway Man.

Rajendra Akelkar has come with a perfect story worth a screenplay. His new book—India’s Railway Man- A biography of E. Sreedharan, should inspire the film makers for it has a hero, villains, drama and ultimately success. Besides it also provides lots of archival material ranging from matrimonial family system in Kerala, idealism of the Nehru era and of course to unleashing of the globalization with innovative ways of realizing greater common good. The film would be a perfect sequel of Naya Daur.

Two key railway projects changed the way India travels by trains—the 760 km stretch of Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro. Both projects were up and running in seven years flat and the man in-charge was Dr. E Sreedharan, popularly known as Railway Man. Bureaucracy in the Railway and the government, the politicians, railway minister and his stooges, the terrain act sometimes as villain and sometimes as the challenges. India’s Railway Man wades his way through stock market scam, Iraq-Iran war with the blessings of visionary politicians like former Railway Minister, George Fernandes and the charismatic Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

E. Sreedharan is a perfect role model of the new era that began with the opening of Indian economy while standing firmly on the shoulders of the Nehruvian socialism. He brought in professionalism, meritocracy without compromising on integrity. After two years of research and several conversations with E. Sreedharan, Akelkar has come up with the authentic biography of the India’s Railway Man. He has consulted the archives of the Railways and other departments to present the precise account of E. Sreedharan’s contribution to the new age infrastructure projects.

The book has lessons for the budding managers in the business schools. After taking over the charge of Managing Director and Chairman of the Konkan Railway Corporation, E. Sreedharan laid down the ten aspect of Corporate Culture necessary for finishing the project on time and in a thorough fashion. They are as under—
1. Total dedication and commitment to the corporate culture mission should be evident in whatever we do any say
2. Integrity of our officers and staff should never be questioned
3. Punctuality is a virtue and a necessity. Target and time schedules are sacrosanct to us.
4. The organization has to be lean but effective.
5. Austerity and economy should be apparent in all our activities.
6. We must have a high-profile image for efficiency, decency and a ‘we mean business’ approach.
7. We must maintain excellent public relations. Our construction activities should not inconvenience the public.
8. All our structures should aesthetically merge with the beautiful Konkan surroundings.
9. Our construction activities should not degrade the ecology and the environment.
10. The welfare of the workforce is our responsibility.
Ideally, these ten points should be the manifesto of the new age infrastructure building in India. The new managers can also learn a lot about the project management from this book.
And there are lots of takeaways for the journalists, politicians, bureaucrats and general readers. Interestingly, Konkan Railway and Delhi Metro are the post-retirement marvels of E. Sreedharan. He received formal appointment letter as the Chairman cum Managing Director of Konkan Railway Corporation two years after he assumed the charge and his take-home salary was just Rs. 1,801 Why? One has to read the book for several such stories and thorough investigation.

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