Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, an 85-year-old civil engineer from Palakkad, is widely hailed as the man who transformed the daily commute of India's middle class. Fondly called the 'Metro Man', for conceptualising, spearheading and eventualizing the Delhi Metro, Sreedharan stands tall in his own country and abroad as an expert in rail-based urban transit systems.
Therefore anger on social media was palpable, after Sreedharan's name went missing from the list of VIP guests who would share the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 17 at the inaugural function of the Rs 8,000-crore Kochi Metro project, of which he is the chief consultant.
Whether an oversight, or a snub, it prompted Kerala Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to write a letter to the Prime Minister's Office, which approved the final shortlist, to revise the list.
But true to his self-effacing form, Sreedharan was quoted by Manorama Online as saying "there was nothing unusual about the decision and that he accepted it". Sreedharan, who had conceptualised the Kochi Metro, said he had no issues with not being on stage and will be among the 3500 attendees at the venue.
On Thursday, Sreedharan requested the media to not "make the issue into a controversy", and that the "security of the PM is important, and he must follow what security agencies say".
The Indian Express reported that Sreedharan's was among the nine names removed by the PMO when it finalised the list of which dignitaries will share the stage with Modi. So far, it seems that Vijayan, Governor P Sathasivam, Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Kerala's Transport Minister Thomas Chandy, legislator KV Thomas, and Kochi Mayor Soumini Jain have made that list.
The names of Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, legislator PT Thomas, Chief Secretary Nailin Netto, Sreedharan and Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) managing director Elias George are not on the list.
Only Modi, Vijayan and Naidu will address the gathering, according to the report.
Vijayan has called the incident a "gross omission". In the first 25-km phase, trains will run for 13 km between Palarivattom and Aluva. Work is on in the remaining section, PTI added.
Twitter users had much to say on the issue.
What level of pettiness and insecurity Modi has that Mr. Sreedharan is not among the special guests at Kochi Metro inauguration?— Dhiraj (@AAPlogical) June 14, 2017