By Sara John P*
The Kochi Metro, Kerala’s first metro service, is the dream, pride and progress of a state and a nation. Kerala has proved that it is equipped for adopting innovative initiatives in tune with changing times. The Kochi Metro enjoys the privilege of being unique in certain ways, where ordinary things were done in an extraordinary manner. The metro is expected to play a pivotal role in the development of an integrated public transportation system, including feeder services. Moreover, it is the first metro, other than the Delhi Metro in India, to have been inaugurated by the Prime Minister of the nation.
The Kochi Metro has set an example in the effective use of renewable energy by installing solar panels atop the metro stations, which are expected to meet half of the power requirements of the stations. Kerala is heavily dependent on hydel power projects and third parties for meeting its increasing power requirements. As of March 2016, out of the total capacity of the power projects installed in the state, the contribution from solar power projects is only 14.15 megawatts. This implies the need to give priority to the development of renewable sources of energy. Further, the Kochi Metro has launched a public bike sharing system to promote environment-friendly transportation. It is not an easy task to ensure the use of non-motorised transport. However, it could be considered an eco-friendly approach, which needs to be managed and improvised over time, as people start encountering various issues related to it.
Kerala still struggles to find an effective and permanent solution for waste management in its major cities. The Corporation of Kochi, in particular, is bogged down by the worsening scenario of waste management. Given these circumstances, the Kochi Metro has nailed it by coming up with idea of using compost made from municipal waste for growing plants. The metro rail sources say that the vertical garden adorning every sixth metro pillar entails 3000 tonnes of compost generated from municipal waste. It should be looked upon as an exemplary endeavour that we can emulate in a small way in our households.
The high unemployment rate of women in Kerala, despite having the highest female literacy rate in India, is thought provoking. The Economic Review, 2016, of the State Planning Board of Kerala states that almost 60 per cent of the total work seekers are women. The findings of the National Sample Survey (NSS) conducted in 2010 avow that the unemployment rate among women in Kerala is 14.1 per cent, whereas it is a paltry 2.9 per cent among men. The numbers imply that disparity exists in case of opportunities available for women. The Kochi Metro has gone against the tide by employing around 1000 women employees, among whom seven are loco drivers.
The Model Shops and Establishments Act passed by the Central Government in 2016, allows women to work in night shifts and states that women should not be discriminated in matters of recruitment, training and promotions. The employees of Kudumbashree, a women oriented poverty reduction project of Government of Kerala, work in the facilities management team of the Kochi Metro 24/7 in three shifts a day. It shows that women are willing to work at night, given an opportunity. The step taken by Kochi Metro is expected to influence entrepreneurs in other sectors also to do the same, given the fact that laws are also becoming more progressive with changing times. Women are empowered when they realise their full potential and are motivated to utilise it. This is not just another commendable step that needs to be appreciated and then forgotten. It should encourage the society to understand that the empowerment of women does not stop at educating them. A lot more needs to be done to help women become self-reliant citizens.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgement by creating the third gender status for the transgender community. The Court vouched that the government has to take steps to end discrimination against the community in availing itself of equal opportunities in education and employment. Kerala has responded positively to the Court’s directive. In 2015, Kerala became the first state to unveil the transgender policy. The Kochi Metro is the first government agency in India to appoint transgender individuals and has become a trendsetter by employing 23 people of the community. The open mindedness shown by the Kochi Metro authorities to involve transgender as part of its team need not reflect the mindset and attitude of the society towards them. However, it has helped in instilling a need to change the attitude of the society towards them and has given them an opportunity to come to the forefront. Though the Kochi Metro’s initiative is brilliant, the ground reality is worrying, as the transgender employees continue to fight against many odds in the society.
Though it may not have made it to the headlines or caught the attention of many in this busy world, the Kochi Metro team has won many hearts by hosting a ‘sadya’ for around 400 migrant workers, who toiled hard to make the Kochi Metro a reality. As per the Economic Review, 2016, Ernakulam has the highest proportion of 17 per cent of migrant workers in the state. The Kochi Metro’s gesture of appreciating the efforts of these workers signifies the need to accept and treat them with dignity.
The Kochi Metro has set the path to initiating changes in the mindset and thought process of the people and way of doing things in Kerala. It stands unique by putting forth an exemplary model vouching that it is more than just an engineering project rendering the service of public transportation. The Kochi Metro indeed had a great beginning but time will prove whether it will be able to retain its pace and values in the long run.
*Sara John P is the Project Associate at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect those of CPPR.
This article is a reproduced version of article published in Deccan Chronicle on July 23, 2017: Train of thought: Progressive track
Kerala Economic Review 2016