Act of mercy

  • Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 26, 2014 11:30 IST

The move by the Union Cabinet on October 29, 2014, to introduce the School of Planning and Architecture Bill, 2014, in Parliament, has brought cheer to hundreds of architecture students holding graduate and postgraduate degrees from the Schools of Planning and Architecture in Vijayawada and Bhopal (both government institutes of national importance).

Since both these institutes do not have degree-granting status, the students are unsure and anxious about their careers. As the students do not have a degree on paper, the Council of Architecture (CoA) has refused to award them registration numbers, which is mandatory for those wanting to practice as architects or applying for government jobs.

HT Education, on October 8, 2014, had highlighted the plight of the meritorious architecture students from both these schools. Three weeks later, the Union Cabinet approved the SPA Bill for introduction in the Lok Sabha.

“The proposed Act will empower these schools to award degrees through an Act of Parliament. This will enable the Schools of Planning and Architecture to become centres of excellence like IITs, NITs and help fulfill the need of the country for quality manpower in the field of architecture and planning,” stated a release from the Press Information Bureau.

Welcoming the government’s decision, students and senior architects have demanded that the bill be passed by both houses of Parliament in the coming winter session. “One cannot imagine why the government should open an institute of excellence to teach degree courses and not confer powers upon it to grant degrees. Students who were admitted in 2008 (when the Vijayawada and Bhopal SPAs were opened), completed their five-year bachelor’s in architecture in 2013 and since then they have been losing academic opportunities one after another,” says Ashok Goel, a senior architect.

Interestingly, the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design and Manufacturing, Kancheepuram, (IIITD-M) which was established in 2007 by the ministry of human resource development as a centre of excellence for technical education and research, also doesn’t have degree-granting status. Students passing out of IIITD-M, however, are not facing problems because they do not need registration by any council. Many architects, academicians and council members allege that the government’s folly in 2008 to start two SPAs without fulfillment of required norms gave an opportunity to the CoA to arm-twist the MHRD on the issue of registering the students.

“After 2008, the CoA has taken several steps which fly in the face of the provisions of the Architects Act, 1972, but despite that, the MHRD has not initiated any action against the council. Unfortunately, the students are the worst sufferers,” says DT Vinod Kumar, a member of CoA, who wrote to the previous HRD minister. Incidentally, he had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complaining about the CoA allegedly overstepping its powers.

HT Education has copies of minutes of the various CoA meetings in which the under-secretary of MHRD, Rajesh Singh, the government representative in CoA, has said that CoA has no power to grant or withdraw approval, impose fines and collect money from institutes and hold a competency test as all these activities are illegal.

Kumar adds, “Despite not having any power to withdraw approval from the architectural colleges, CoA is continuing to do it and also imposing fines on the colleges.
Moreover, about 4000 students from several architecture colleges don’t have CoA’s registration number despite completing their five-year bachelor of architecture course. Concerned about their careers, many of them appeared in the competency test held by CoA, but that, too, ended in a deadlock as some students challenged the test in the Delhi High Court, which stayed the announcement of the result.” The council is also not registering students who are passing out from the Chandigarh College of Architecture.

We felt cheated and failed to understand the reasons for not getting a degree. NOT HAVING A DEGREE IS VERY UNSETTLING in terms of our careers --- Jyoti Mittal, SPA Bhopal

Letter to Prime Minister

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

The alumni student body of School of Planning & Architecture, Bhopal, would like to bring the issue of degree granting (plaguing the institute) to your notice. We are a group representing people from all walks of life. Our education is what defines us and when there is no proof of this education, our future is in jeopardy. As you might have been previously informed, since its inception six years ago, our college continues to provide a provisional degree to us. The implications of this action have been a matter of constant stress to us as most of us will be either practicing or opting for further studies. Both of which are not possible without a COA registration, which again is not possible without a degree. Consequently we are not recognised as architects or planners. The public notice issued by the council of architecture regarding institutions admitting students without the council’s approval has further added to our woes. To be accepted into a national institution among thousands of other applicants and then being deprived of a degree and a right to practice is a major setback to us. In a scenario where one hears of colleges being shut down due to fraudulent practices, our parents have been under constant assurance that investing their income and savings in an MHRD institution would ensure a secure and bright future for their child. However, they have been sadly disappointed and share our anguish. We expect that the new government will put an end to our woes and address our issues.

Sincerely, Navjit Gaurav

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