Professional municipal cadre: Could guilds be the way forward?

When we talk about a cadre of municipal professionals for smart cities and urban local bodies, it would be good for such professionals to be a part of respective trade guilds created by due legislation, says Anirban Choudhury.

As we have seen in an earlier article, the Government of India, as it works to implement the Smart City Initiative of the MOUD, has realised the need for a paradigm shift in education and recruitment of urban municipal staff in the country.

Perhaps in alignment with this perceived need, the NDA government is reportedly set to take architecture education out of the purview of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and allocate it to the Urban Development Ministry, as reported by The Indian Express recently. It is further reported that this was despite the HRD Ministry’s opposition to the proposal in a meeting held at the Cabinet Secretariat in the last week of February 2017.

In the first week of March 2017, the move was communicated to the two ministries and the change will be formally notified through an amendment to the Allocation of Business Rules 1961, which enlists the responsibilities of each ministry under the Union government.

Presently, the registration of architects, standards of architectural education, recognition of qualifications and standards of practice by architects are all defined and governed by the The Architects Act, 1972 which is likely to be cancelled. As the above report also points out, a direct fall-out of this will be that the HRD Ministry will no longer be in-charge of regulating architectural education through the Council of Architecture (CoA).

Analysing the government’s decision

One of the grounds on which this move is being justified is that architecture education will be best served under a ministry that deals directly with the subject, in this case the Urban Development (UD) ministry.

By the same logic civil, electrical, mechanical and allied engineering departments could be governed by departments or groups of ministries under the Central Government, such as urban development, water resources & irrigation, public works, power and energy, small & medium industry, and chemical and heavy industry. In this scenario, electronics engineering education would be governed by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), medical education will be under the direct governance of the health ministry (with the Medical Council of India under it) and legal education under the law ministry.

The changes underway could in fact be a positive step towards creation of a guild of professionals, which a degree or diploma holder would be required to join. It is also the need of the hour to have education tagged with the ministry that would represent future deployment of professionals coming out of a particular discipline and their induction in the respective industry guild.

However, that would not be a new thing for the country. Even before Independence, and in the colonial legacy that followed, we have had guilds of seafarers, engineers (Institution of Engineers India), miners and aviators.

Over the years, however, the Institution of Engineers became irrelevant as the AICTE under the MHRD came into the picture, aiding privatization of professional education and abetting inconsistency in the quality of engineers passing out of Indian Universities. Many Indian engineers migrating to the commonwealth countries and others in the developed worldhad to go for bridge programmes to get professional recognition.

On the other hand, professionals in core operations in the Indian shipping and aviation industries needed their certificates to satisfy global protocols of organisations and institutions such as ILO, ITO, IMO, ICAO etc. As a result, the education and certification process of core professionals in these industries have continued in the colonial tradition and complied with global conventions.

Let us take the case of the Indian shipping industry in particular. In this industry, the Directorate of Marine Engineering Training or DMET (presently known as the Marine Engineering and Research Institute), training ships TS Rajendra, TS Bhadra, TS Duffrinand other naval training establishments spread throughout the Indian coastlineprovided maritime education in India since independence.

After preliminary training and ratings of engineers, shipyard interns and naval officers, they are inducted into seafarer’s service under the leadership of Directorate General (DG) of Shipping, which is recorded officially in the Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) awarded by the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) of the Government of India.

The MMD also conducts examinations for Certificate of Competency of seafarers (without any controversy till date) and has deep knowledge of both the skillsets available and market demand.

Before any ship (with an Indian or international flag) sails out of Indian ports and harbours, the MMD ensures its sea-worthiness as well as the fact that the ship owners conform to national and international protocols and comply with standard operating procedures. This keeps the industry vibrant even during a downturn.

The way forward

It is therefore desirable that professionals in other fields too, architects or urban planners for example, have their own guilds under the tutelage of respective ministries or groups of experts, and that these guilds function in the way that the shipping industry does.The roles and responsibilities of the members of the guild would be commensurate with the needs of the industry.

Thus, when we talk about a cadre of municipal professionals for smart cities and urban local bodies, it would be good for such professionals to be a part of the respective trade guild, created by due legislation. The basic educational qualification of such a member should also come under the Ministry that requires the relevant professional manpower. The recently proposed changes with respect to architectural education could well be a move in the desired direction.


  1. anirban choudhury says:

    Sidelining planners makes for poorer urban policy, and future generations will pay the price

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