Despite achieving all-India rank 5 in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) in 2013, Triveni Prasad Nanda, a graduate from the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal, faces an uncertain future.
The SPA, Bhopal and its cousin SPA Vijaywada, were established in 2008 by the Central government as ‘institutes of national importance’. Like Prasad, hundreds of other meritorious students, signed up to pursue degree and master’s degree courses in architecture.
When the first batch of more than 120 BArch students in the two institutes passed out in 2013, they found — to their horror — that both schools did not have degree granting status. The second batch also shares a similar plight.
“The Council of Architecture (CoA) refused to give us a registration number that would allow us to practice as architects. Not losing heart, I decided to pursue master’s and secured AIR 5 in GATE. I secured a written assurance from the SPA Bhopal that I will get the degree certificate and applied for master’s in IIT Kharagpur” says Prasad. The central government has still not passed an act to empower the two SPAs with degree granting status. “If they dont do it till next year, when I graduate, all my hard work and money will go waste,” he says.
According to officials at the two SPAs, the fate of around 1,000 meritorious students is similarly hanging in balance.
Both schools have been offering a five-year bachelor of architecture, a four-year bachelor of planning and two-year master’s in architecture and planning from 2008 onwards without being affiliated to any university or having the status of a university.
Like Prasad, Nagpur-based Atul Lalsare, completed his MArch programme in urban design from SPA, Bhopal in 2012, but is yet to get a job. “I lost my father at an early age and my mother has struggled to pay the `3 lakh fee for my master’s course. Now even after completing the course I don’t have master’s degree certificate and cannot apply for any government job,” says Lalsare, who was selected for a national students’ scholarship in 2010 by the Institute for Steel Development and Growth, Kolkata. He feels lucky, however, to be registered as an architect because of the BArch programme he did from VNIT, which granted him a degree certificate.
Says Akhil Chaudhary (name changed), who completed his BArch from SPA Vijaywada in 2013, “Students face multiple problems due to government apathy. Those who passed BArch in 2013 and 2014 and BPlan in 2012, 2013 and 2014 are badly impacted because they can’t practice their profession independently. Students also find it difficult to get admission in foreign universities.”
Alumni associations of the two SPAs allege that the government is not responding to their requests to take appropriate steps to empower the two SPAs with degree granting status.
“We have met Ashok Thakur, secretary, higher education and have pleaded that meritorious students of the country should not be victimised. The HRD minister Smriti Irani recently came to Bhopal to lay the foundation stone of one of our buildings and the faculty apprised her of the plight of hundreds of students but nothing has happened. Had the government taken action, the issue would have been resolved in the monsoon session of the Parliament, but it seems that all our requests are falling on deaf ears,” says Navjit Gaurav, president of the alumni association of SPA, Bhopal.