SUCCESSFULLY MEETING CHALLENGES FACING THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION
Engineering has been part of human life since prehistoric times and has contributed to development of civilization. Of late it is facing challenges in our country:
- Challenge posed by actions initiated or undertaken by the Council of Architecture (COA):
- COA is a statutory body created in 1972 to register an ‘architect’ under the Act.
- When the bill was introduced in the Parliament, Members wondered why such a small community of architects wanted an act for themselves. The bill was passed, however, on the condition that it would only protect the title of ‘architect’ but would not stop or prevent designing (which includes planning) of buildings by engineers. Despite this provision, COA has been indulging in initiating legal actions all over the country for many years to prevent engineers (especially civil engineers) from undertaking designing (which includes planning) of buildings. They have also been reportedly misguiding clients/ owners desirous of constructing buildings and the like to invite proposals/ tenders only from ‘architects’ so that they create a sort of a monopoly. They have also been threatening or even initiating legal action against companies who by virtue of the self-misguiding interpretation being given and perpetrated by the COA and/ or its members. They have been able to even pursue and be able to get some actions in their favour by using the legal status of COA, set up by virtue of an Act, where, unfortunately, the cases were not adequately defended. In many cases, however, COA has lost but they then resorted to Review Petitions in the same or higher courts with the probable intent of either hoping for a favourable judgment or else tiring out the opposite party/ parties. The COA has been misusing its statutory status and public money to further their own selfish ends which are not in the interest of the nation or its engineers.
- COA using its statutory clout has succeeded in persuading the Ministry of Human Resources Development, (MHRD), Government of India to agree to consider the draft amendments proposed by it. A Committee was formed in March 2014 with three months’ time limit by MHRD for specific purpose with terms of reference to study and advice on the COA suggested amendments. This is contrary to the very Act’s formation of a Council which inter alia specifically also comprises engineers. However, the review committee formed by the MHRD, GOI has NO ENGINEER as a member.
- In the same manner COA has persuaded semi-public and state enterprises, institutions etc. to get quotations only from registered architects/ firms of architects. Those organizations meekly submit to avoid any confrontation with a statutory body. Thus, Engineers are effectively getting debarred from doing such projects and architects have the monopoly.
- The second challenge being faced by Structural Engineers is of structural engineers being summarily arrested without any investigation in case of collapse of a structure even when there are no casualties. This is largely due to media pressure on the police and also goaded by the government to take action. It is also because of the prevailing ignorance concerning the roles and responsibilities of the structural designer vis-à-vis the owner/ builder, the architect and the contractor for a particular project.
- The third challenge is the tendency of local authorities in the country who also make the Structural Engineer responsible for quality of construction through their building bye-laws, whereas the responsibility ought to be proportionately apportioned to the owner/ builder, the architect, the contractor, the structural engineer plus engineers of other disciplines. In all these it is the engineers whose financial stake is the least whereas the responsibility and accountability are the maximum. This has later been addressed in the National Building Code of India 2016 which makes the Owner, Architect, Engineer and Contactor all responsible.
- The fourth challenge is to create awareness amongst decision-makers, government authorities and the public at large about the crucial and indelible role of Engineers in nation building and maintaining the assets created.
- The fifth challenge is to ensure adequate financial compensation to Engineers across the disciplines for all type of services, commensurate with their work content, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.
- The sixth challenge is to unite different disciplines within engineering and technical/ professional associations to put up a united front to get the legislation for the Profession of Engineering passed by the Parliament and establish a statutory/ regulatory authority.
It is heartening to note that some senior leaders of our profession are keen to get together to address these challenges so that they do not adversely affect the engineering profession and it can gain its rightful place in the society, which it so richly deserves.
This note is prepared to increase awareness and initiate discussion on the challenges described above. It may be recalled that in western countries, notably, the US the office bearers directly and through public relations (PR) agencies actively lobby with the governments for their rights. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers shifted its decades long headquarter from New York close to the seat of the Federal government some years back.
To commence with it is suggested that:
- An Inter Association Committee consisting of heads of the Associations/ Institutions/ Councils be immediately formed for creating a pro-active policy to look after the interests of engineers.
- The Associations which have already got together are:
- Consulting Engineers Association of India
- Indian Association of Structural Engineers
- Association of Consulting Civil Engineers (India)
- Engineering Council of India
- Institution of Engineers (India) is supporting but needs to be more active and take the lead, if need be.
- With all the Associations/ Institutions/ Councils coming together and working in unison it will add tremendous strength to the initiative.
- CPWD, State PWDs and other engineering authorities need to be associated with this initiative.
- A formal head of the Committee should be decided (by rotation) who will implement the decisions of the Committee and deal with the Secretariat which will be set up for the initiative.
- The Secretariat should be an independent set up totally and fully dedicated to the task at hand. The Secretariat can be housed initially in the office of any partner Association, Institution, Council, etc. who may have spare space. In June 2020 the President IEI has kindly agreed to
- The following could be the Tasks of the Inter Association Committee:
- Promote the image of the profession through media and with the authorities.
- Follow up to get the Engineers Bill enacted including effectively educating the Officers, Hon’ble Ministers, Hon’ble Members of the Rajya Sabha and the Parliament and the Public at large.
- Deal with the immediate issues created by COA to protect right of engineers to practice designing (which includes planning) of buildings.
- Protect engineers, structural engineers in particular, from unnecessary harassment in case of collapse of structures leading to physical injuries
- Ensure that the structural engineer is responsible only for the works/ tasks contracted to the engineer with regard to the laws and rules framed by the government and local authorities.
- To create, in collaboration with participating institutions, a collaborative mechanism at regional level to carry out objectives of the Committee at local/ regional levels including ensuring availability of legal assistance to engineers and undertake liaison with authorities.
- To appoint a competent lawyer/ advocate for advice on legal issues
- To appoint a competent PR agency to create a positive environment with government officials and to advise regarding publicity campaigns
- The Inter Association Committee will create a permanent Secretariat, and initially appoint a full-time executive to help achieve above objectives, and in particular to do the following:
- To monitor events happening in the country which potentially impact the engineering profession and bring the same to the notice of the Committee.
- To consider requests received from engineers for help/ guidance and place the same before the Committee
- To initiate actions as directed by the Committee
- To develop close contacts with the member of participating associations
- To establish contacts with government authorities in this regard
- To liaison with lawyers/ advocates to be appointed by the Committee.
- To liaison with PR agency to be appointed by the Committee. The PR agency would need to draw up a publicity campaign for approval by the Committee.
- The PR agency is to create a positive environment with government officials and to advise regarding publicity campaigns including the following:
- An on-going campaign through all media – TV, Newspapers and social media
- Prepare publicity material which can be uploaded on websites of participating institutions, on their mouth-piece such as bulletins, newsletters
- Advise creation of a portal to achieve objectives of the Committee
- Establish help-line
- Requirement of Funds & Maintaining of Accounts:
The Committee will decide on an initial budget and a strategy to raise initial funds required. Initially this may be Rs. 100 lakhs. At present CEAI deals with receipt and expenditure of funds. The Committee will consult with a Chartered Accountant so that contributor’s contribution is fully deductible as valid expense. The fund raising has to be done by appealing to all the institutions, organisations and individuals (through members). The Committee will maintain and operate in all aspects and in all spheres in a clear and transparent manner with all decisions and approvals recorded in writing.
General Principles for Engineers
- Accept appointment for a work/task directly from the Client and not from an Architect. If the bid is to be in association with an ‘Architect’ or if the Client works through an ‘Architect’ then the internal agreement must unambiguously include that each will work independently and be responsible for their own scope of work/ tasks.
- Refrain or even refuse to be a party to do the designs and prepare drawings for plans which do not comply with all the norms for planning of structures for resisting/ withstanding earthquake, wind, fire, natural disasters like flooding, etc. and meeting all good and standard practice requirements of engineering, safety, health and environment for all systems such as but not limited to heating/ air-conditioning & ventilation, plumbing , fire prevention, detection & suppression, electrical, IT & communication, security, instrumentation & automation, building/ facility management system, etc.
- Be absolutely forthright in bring to the notice of the Client any non-functionality in the planning and layout.
- Be absolutely forthright in bringing to the notice of the Client any unnecessary and extra cost to be spent only for so called aesthetics which may affect the stability, functionality and maintainability.
- Not to succumb to any pressure either from the Client or the Architect or the Contractor/ Vendor to plan or design or supervise a project which in the honest opinion does not conform to the codes of practice, stability, standard engineering practice, the local bye-laws, etc.
- Keep the Association/ Institution/ Council informed of any organisation whose tender notices invite applications only from Registered Architects and prevents engineers form the same.
ENGINEERS MUST BE UNITED AND HAVE COMPLETE SOLIDARITY
A P Mull