FASTER than fairies, faster than witches,Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches; These are the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, which we as school kids used to recite as a part of are curriculum in class 4-5. The turnaround for Civil Engineering profession, which is closely associated with Surveying and Mapping in India, can be summarized through the above lines.
In 1991, as final year students of engineering, we were concerned with placement or higher studies. Civil Engineering students were in bad shape, with few offers and that too low on remuneration. Later, I heard many of our Civil Engg batch mates went for higher studies in India and abroad. Some of them had no options but to take up the job, with whatever remunerations industry had to offer. Things were tough in early 1990s and it became worse, when government froze the recruitment in most of the public sectors.
Pushkar, a batch mate and a Civil Engineering graduate started his career with an annual pay package of INR 30,000, which was almost half of what was being offered in other engineering disciplines at that time. Couple of years down the lane when IT started picking up, our effort to bail him out of this situation through coaxing, cajoling and argument to join IT sector, went in vain. He was a happy with his rough jeans, T-shirts and hot & sunny construction sites. Some of our fellow Civil Engineers moved to the greener pastures of Information Technology sector.
Mid 90s, India’s central government mandate focused on infrastructure: Roads, Highways, Power, Telecom etc. Large scale work started on National Highways which saw huge amount of money being spent in these areas. New funding models like Public Private Partnership were being talked about. Pushkar, in the meantime had moved from construction of buildings to roads and highways. He was now on the move, from Ranchi to Balasore to Cuttack to Hyderabad.
One day in early 2000, I received a call from Pushkar. He was visiting Delhi for an interview and his airfare was being reimbursed by the company which had called him. Till now he had only heard of this special treatment being reserved for the IT professionals, who according to him were soft (working in an air conditioned environment) and special. On his way back from the interview he called up again, with excitement in his voice. He was talking about gross annual salary in terms of Lakhs (Each Lakh is 100,000). He was being offered nearly 6 Lakhs per annum. This was a milestone for him! Last month, he was on top of the world, as a leading business house in India had offered him a salary of nearly 16 Lakhs per annum, along with stock options. Civil Engineers are now being paid! Civil Engineering as a profession, I am sure would again be pursued by enthusiasm. Thanks to appropriate mandate, policy and implementation methods.
Perhaps, Surveying and Mapping would be better off with something more specific in terms of government mandate and policy initiatives. Last year at Map Middle East 2006, Norikazu Watanabe, Managing Director, Sokkia Singapore, in an interview with us said, “It is true that in many instances, the remuneration has been insufficient to attract and maintain a high quality workforce. While increasing salaries can offset this problem, the key issue is whether customers will bear the increase in costs to cover the additional expense for employers”. A thought, which in a way is also shared by Prof Stig Enemark in his interview being covered in this issue where he says, “We should work towards making surveyors proud of their profession”. Further, Prof Enemark feels, it has to be initiative directed towards educating the politicians about the benefits of this profession.
Last month during the keynote address at Map Asia 2007, Bhupinder Singh, Sr VP, Bentley, said that according to market reports the global infrastructure spend will be over US$ 41 Trillion. Out of this over 40% spending in power and road sector would be in Asia. It is quite evident too, that infrastructure is quite high on agenda in the Asian region. Can the requirements of infrastructure development be looked into in isolation from ‘Surveying and Mapping’? Over the last few years there has been demand from private and public sector for the mapping and surveying professionals. In the days to come, the huge amount of work in the infrastructure sector will play the detrimental role. If not willingly, the compulsion not to jeopardize economic activities, which is closely associated with physical infrastructure, can see surveying, one of the oldest profession, actually take off.