Inspirations Op-ed

Being an Engineer – Say it with pride

Engineering has played an all important role in the development of our nation. India can be promptly called as the factory of Engineers as it has produced and continues to produce countless number of engineers who now serve all around the globe. Innumerable engineers have worked earnestly for making this nation proud and in this prestigious day for all engineers and those dreaming and pursuing to be one, let’s revisit the history behind the ‘National Engineers Day’.

The Indian Role Models

The Engineers day in India is celebrated on the birthday of one of the best engineers this nation was ever blessed with: Bharat Ratna Sir. M. Visvesvaraya. Born in Karnataka in the pre-independence era (In 1861), his contribution to the Indian cities is invaluable. He was not just a prolific Civil Engineer, but was also an economist and a dam builder. The Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) dam is a testament to his knowledge, skill and implementation which he successfully commissioned as the chief engineer.

He was also the brain behind the design and implementation of flood protection system for Hyderabad city after it was ravaged by severe floods due to intense rainfall in 1908. He proposed construction of reservoirs to prevent flood episodes and safeguard the city from torrential rainfall. Also, he constructed a sewage farm to prevent flow of sewage into the river and the subsequent public health issues. To honor his overwhelming contribution, he was conferred with India’s highest civilian honor, Bharat Ratna. He was also awarded the ‘Sir’ title by the British empire for his services. To honor his contribution, his birthday (15th September) is marked as the National Engineers’ day.  

Another shining star in India’s Engineering field is the METRO MAN – Engineer E. Sreedharan. He changed the way India commuted as he oversaw the planning, design and implementation of Kolkata Metro in 1970 as its deputy civil engineer. Though he retired in 1990, he was requested by the Government to head the Konkan railway project. The Konkan route is one of the most enchanting routes in Asia, going through numerous tunnels and breathtaking terrains. At that time of construction, many were skeptic about the project and bet for the complete failure of the project. But the Metro man fought against all odds and completed the project without much delays and cost over-runs, which was in itself a huge accomplishment. Later in 2000s, it was the Delhi Metro Project which earned him the nickname, ‘METRO MAN OF INDIA’. The Delhi metro project was finished ahead of the schedule laying to rest delays and extra cost incurrence – the quintessentials of Indian infrastructure projects! He also extended his expertise and knowledge for the metro projects in various cities such as Kochi, Lucknow and Jaipur.

METRO MAN – Engineer E. Sreedharan

Let’s not forget the role of women engineers who are hidden stars! Women have played a pivotal role in all walks of engineering – particularly with ISRO such as Engineer Tessy Thomas – known better as the Missile woman of India. She was the former head of Agni IV missile program and is the first  woman to head a missile project in India. Another notable star is ISRO scientist and Engineer N. Valarmathi who was the recipient of the prestigious Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam award from the Tamil Nadu government.

Missile woman of India

The perfect epitome of the success & brilliance of engineering has to be outlined where our late president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul kalam helped create indigenous and low cost stents for heart patients and calipers for polio-attacked children from the same composite material which was used to produce the nose cone of the Agni missile! The traditional calipers for polio weighed around 4 kg which our beloved Dr. Kalam brought down to nearly 300g (around the weight of two smart phones).

The secret ingredient of Engineering

One would be quite startled if there is a detailed background check on CEOs and leading businessmen of various organisations in India and around the world. The interesting point is that : Majority of them  are Engineers! Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Sachin Bansal & Binny Bansal are perfect examples of the above mentioned case. So, what makes Engineers so special in leading and managing, one is forced to think.

Perhaps, it is habit of  hours and hours of attacking engineering problems – puzzles of complex calculus and mechanics from all angles has given them this trait of being logical and pragmatic in approaching and attacking a problem.  Perhaps, those not-so-practical lessons of physics and mathematics do have realistic outputs! It may be even be the secret ingredient to the success of Engineers-turned-spin bowlers, R. Ashwin and Anil Kumble to use the perfect angles, spin revolutions, drift, in-dip and bounce to bamboozle the batsmen!

It may  even be the secret ingredient to the success of Engineers-turned-spin bowlers, R. Ashwin and Anil Kumble to use the perfect angles, spin revolutions, drift, in-dip and bounce to bamboozle the batsmen!

The present status of Engineers

The present status of Engineers, though, are very grim. A news article on The Hindu highlights that for 368 positions for “peons” in Uttar Pradesh, a staggering 23 lakh candidates applied for the posts. The minimum qualification for the post was a education upto 5th standard and a know-how on how to ride a bicycle. The most painful part is nearly 2.2 lakhs of engineers and more than 250 Ph.D. holders applied for the job which provides a remuneration of Rs.20,000, apart from the perks of working in a govt. Office. This grave situation highlights the malady gripping our education system.

Innumerous engineering colleges mushroomed out in the past decade, particularly in the Southern part (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka & Andhra), mostly owned by politicians and businessmen to reap the golden run Engineering was enjoying few years ago. Unfortunately, the quality of education was long given up in pursuit of increasing the number of seats on offer. And therefore, the outputs never really matched industrial standards. In most private colleges, those who are teaching are the alumni of the varsity and the professors are made to “recruit” students to get “bonus”.

A peek into the Future

Leaving behind all the negative issues, focus should be on holistic development. Much credit has to be given to “3 IDIOTS” (one of the very few Indian movies for society’s welfare) for highlighting the plight of students pursuing engineering while their hearts lie elsewhere. Imagine the Asiad medallist Neeraj Chopra or boxer Amit Panghal pursuing engineering instead of sports!

In the wake of the much talked about Kerala floods and the always neglected Assam floods, Engineers will play the key role in upgrading the Indian urban scenario. From technology intervention for preventing manual scavenging to setting foot on Moon, engineering is of paramount importance. Along with farmers and doctors, engineers are the key to transform India into a dream nation as envisioned by our Late President, Inspirer, Scientist and last but not the least, an engineer – Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Engineers, take pride!

— Articulation of an engineer’s thoughts..

Sathes Kumar
Sathes Kumar is a graduate of B.Tech. Energy and Environmental Engineering. He is currently working as a Research Analyst (Climate Change & Sustainability) in All India Institute of Local Self Government - New Delhi. His interests include sustainability and green buildings and is also into anything which is interesting and thought provoking