After suffering the horror of watching kids jump to death in Surat, within less than two months, we now saw kids fall to death at Kankaria. Both these tragedies are proving that we have still not recognised that Engineers Act, or rather lack of it is killing people.
After the fire tragedy of Surat, I did try to point out the core issue of the power struggle between All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Council of Architecture (CoA) and act-less community of engineers to retain control over construction engineering without much success, but with more people dying of the same cause, I am going to try again.
In India, we have not enacted Engineers Act crucial for regulating the professionals serving as engineers. At this point a person turns into an “engineer” merely by getting a paper degree from any college that has AICTE approval.
As AICTE (mostly) defines physical and human infrastructural parameters for setting up and operating a college but doesn’t conduct a pan-India exit exam to identify and unify competence of those emerging from more than 3000 colleges that have mushroomed across the nation, the ride you could be sitting in or the coaching class your kid goes to can be “engineered” by anyone who has a paper degree from any random college.
While I am unable (on a public platform) and able (in private) to fathom the mystery behind our insistence of avoiding enactment of national Engineers Act, it is clear that we are going to let people die for a while instead of bothering to enact it and create a regulator of engineering, so I want to try and now suggest a local solution.
As the Engineers Act debate did rage in past when a greater tragedy in form of 2001 earthquake had hit our state, one of the policy fallouts of it was Gujarat Professional Civil Engineers Act, 2006 enacted at state level as an attempt to fill the vacuum created by lack of a national act.
As I had seen the fate of such an overreach in the case of Gas Act that our state had ambitiously enacted, I had always looked at our local Engineers Act as one more act of bravery leading us nowhere, and also counter-productive to the ultimate objective of having a national Engineers Act.
As our local act is also sans an exit exam that is a must to define quality of an engineer, it is mostly a paper tiger, but now I see it as a better-than-nothing tool that needs to be used by the state.
The first and immediate requirement is to change the act from “Civil Engineers Act” to “Engineers Act” and cover all other branches of engineering therein. As RERA has already started resurrecting it and is asking civil engineers to register, RERA can be made the guardian angel administrating the act that can support a professional council who must regulate professional practice of engineering for all other branches such as electrical, mechanical and more.
As we have already dared to have an act, we should start thinking about a state level exit exam for engineers that can be given legal backing by posing it as an exam for the right to practice within a local body like a municipal corporation.
As a progressive state, Gujarat need not continue suffering just because a much needed act is not enacted at a national level. It is better that we show India the way forward by having our own regulations for engineering professionals and make them accountable and responsible enough to prevent tragedies that engineering failures lead to.