Civil Engineers ! An untold story !
Civil Engineers ! An untold story !
Hello my dear viewers, readers, students of India ! I am writing this post or article for the benefit of Civil Engineers ( both who are studying as well as who have completed study and working), especially of India.
Why India ? Because, In India only and also in countries with similar culture of India like Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc, the conditions of recent Civil Engineers are very much pathetic. General public and even the Govt hardly know about them. So, my this post or article, an untold story.
I am a Civil Engineer, have practical work experience of more that 20 years as of now, both in Govt and Private sectors, both as Client and Contractor. Also, I have experience of exposure with foreign Civil Engineers from Australia and Japan.
So, all of my experiences, feelings, knowledge, hardships I have faced, etc have been materialised in this article or post.
In ancient times, there was no name as ‘Civil Engineering’. Have you thought how this name ‘Civil Engineering’ came ? The term ‘Civil’ generally has the meaning as ‘non-military’. In earlier times, there was only one term as ‘Engineering’ meaning construction of roads, bridges, railways, buildings, dams, etc, which was the duty of Military or Army personnel, not of common men. Because, construction of these big big public structures or utilities required hard arduous duties suitable only to strong healthy physique, which only Army personal can provide. But, later on, when construction area widened, and Govt also took many construction activities on their own shoulder, it became need to open the field of construction area to common people. It was then not sufficient to depend only upon Military or Army for so much construction works. So, then the name ‘Civil Engineering’ came, meaning construction activities by common people, not the Army or Military or Fouji or Sena ( फौजी, सेना, in Indian Hindi language).
So, construction works performed by Military personal and common engineers are basically the same. Only, the name changed. The working conditions, arduous life style, risk factors, etc are everything the same for Army engineers as well as ordinary engineers.
But, Military engineers get special training for fighting with enemies and for arduous life style. They become accustomed with the hardship involved in construction works. So, Military or Army Civil Engineers don’t feel the hardship in construction works. But, what about ordinary common Civil Engineers ? No Military training, no hardship training. So, when an ordinary Civil Engineer steps into arduous construction field, he faces many new unthought problems, due to lack of Military training. The basic working environment is the same, but an Army Engineer is accustomed with the arduous conditions, whereas an ordinary Civil Engineer is not accustomed with the arduous conditions, this is a difference.
Nowadays, Civil Engineering has two sides, one is Drawing and Designing, sitting in AC rooms in front of computers, other is practical construction in field. My area of discussion is specially for the Civil Engineers engaged in practical construction field, requiring arduous duties.
Also, Civil Engineers are working in two sectors, Government and Private. Those who score good marks in Engineering study, get jobs in Govt Departments easily depending on vacancy. But, Govt job is very much limited. So, maximum number of educated Civil Engineers work in Private companies. Those, who work under Govt, are a bit comfortable, as far as arduous duties are thought of. But, condition of those Civil Engineers working in private sector, is very much pathetic. So, my topic of discussion in this article is focussed mainly on practical Civil Engineers working in private sector.
Another thing, Civil Engineering or construction involves two groups. One is Client or Owner or Govt in general, at upper level deserving respect & privileges; the other is the Contractor, who are generally private companies or firms, working at lower level under Client or Owner or Govt . Those Civil Engineers who are on Client or Owner or Govt side, enjoy much privilege and much freedom from arduous duties. On the other hand, Civil Engineers working under Contractors, face all sorts of arduous activities. They have no freedom. So, my main focus of this article is for the Civil Engineers working under Contractors.
Civil engineers working in urban areas like Metro Rail, Housing, High rise buildings, Real Estate, Shopping malls, are far more comfortable and enjoying life better than those who are posted in remote jungle areas or borders, etc.
Since earlier times, the word ‘Contractor’ has been looked upon with substandard sense, like Coolie or porter in India, labourer, etc. In earlier times, Contractors were mostly uneducated or little-educated common people. Their main focus on construction work was to complete the work anyhow and make the own profit or money. They took help of all types of ‘black practices’, like stealing cement and reinforcement, deceiving, telling lies, thieving, bribery, etc. So, people looked upon Contractors with a prejudicial attitude with hatred.
But, nowadays, Contractors are not of earlier type. Nowadays, Contractors are big companies or firms employing many staffs, engineers, accountants, clerks, etc. Even some individual contractors themselves are well educated. Even, some college-pass educted Civil Engineers themselves became Contractors.
As I have seen in India, many Ministers, political leaders, etc are also are or were big Contractors.
In India, CPWD is considered as the central & important standard body in the field of construction industry. A publishing agency at Connaught Place/Circus, New Delhi, named M/s Nabhi Publications or Jain Book Depot, is authorised to publish all CPWD literatures with commentary. In their books, many things has been written openly regarding black practices of the Contractors. You are advised to go through these books for your benefit and knowledge.
Generally all construction projects or contract works are time-bound. So, there is huge pressure on the head of the Contractor to complete the project in time. Otherwise, the Contractor has to face penalty (called LD or Liquidated Damage in Civil Engineering language) and bad reputation.
So, whatever it is, as Contractors are opposite side of Govt or Client or Owner, they are always oriented to deceiving and black practices, be it a small individual Contractor or a big Construction Firm.
Nowadays, it has become customary, mainly due to Govt policy, that Contractor should employ qualified Civil Engineer, otherwise, he has to face penalty. So, nowadays, almost all Contractors appoint college-passed Civil Engineers. Also, due to scarcity of Govt jobs, maximum Civil Engineers start working under small Contractors or big Construction companies, after completion of study. Also, mainly small Contractors appoint Civil Engineers to combat his Client or Govt Engineer.
Some Contractors appoint retired aged Govt Engineers for their own benefit. But, these Engineers are generally aged people (generally above 50 years) and mostly sit at the Head Office of the Contractor and do consultancy job. These aged Engineers are not posted at site. They condition under Contractor is better and comfortable.
Now, when a student studies in Engineering College or Institute, he definitely thinks of becoming a Civil Engineer on upper side i.e. Owner or Client, so that he will enjoy all privileges and respect. During studying in Engineering College or Institute, the mentality of all the Civil Engineering students remains of this nature, and they never become prepared to work at the lower side i.e. Contractor. So, when a Civil Engineer, after completing his study, starts working under Contractor due to non-availibility of Govt or Clientele jobs, he faces many unthought-of problems and hardships, both physical and mental.
Generally, educated Civil Engineers working under Contractors are commonly termed as ‘Site Engineers’. Though, some big Construction Firms give some special designatory terms like Project Manager, Project Engineer, Senior Construction Manager, etc, to Civil Engineers under them, the term ‘Site Engineer’ is the most common.
My this article is focussed specially for these Site Engineers.
These Site Engineers are generally educated youth with tender mentality, having no exposure to arduous conditions at site and black practices of Contractor. They fall prey to all types of hardships very easily. Contractors use them as per their own will, very often as an ‘Engineer Shield’ to the Govt or Client of the upper side. Site Engineeers can not understand this strategy of the Contractor. Even the Civil Engineer from the upper Govt or Client side also can’t understand or overlook ( even if he understands) this dirty policy of the Contractor. So, ultimately the Site Engineer remains under tremendous mental suffocation.
Site engineers most often can’t work as per his engineering practice. He is very often made agree to work on the principles not supporting engineering rules. Site Engineers are recruited by the Contractors just for a ‘show’ to the Govt/Client, to receive all the abuses.
Lifestyle of these Site Engineers are worse even than Govt soldiers or Army personnel. There are many similarities, like both work in arduous condition away from common society, posted in remote areas or borders, can’t keep family along with them, there are life risk factors, etc. But, there are differences also, Site Engineers are not Govt personnel, they are private, their family won’t get a penny if died at remote locations on duty, etc.
As Site Engineer, your owner i.e. Contractor will make you work very hard with very low salary. You won’t have any feeling of freedom, you will always feel suffocated. You will not entitled to frequent leave, rest, etc.
I am giving below some helping tips for the relief of the Site Engineers.
- Throw off all egoistic attitudes : You are working under the lower side Contractor, not the Govt or Client of the upper side. You are being paid by the Contractor. The Contractor has kept you for his own profit. Contractor will give respect and other weightages to the Engineer of the upper level Client or Govt, not to you. So, you have to develop your mentality according to that and throw off all hopes of ego, respect, etc.
- Change the mentality, condition will look favourable : Every coin has two faces. Everything has both merits & demerits. Science is both blessings & curse. It is upto you how you take them, look upon them, utilise them. As Site Engineer, you should be in Rome, and as the proverb says : While in Rome, do as the Romans do.
- Don’t have negative mentality : Though you are working on lower level on behalf of Contractor, you are much stronger than the Engineer on upper level Client/Govt in certain cases. Your confidence should be stronger than them. You are working in mud in field. Your practical knowledge is far more deeper than the Engineer on upper level Client/Govt.
- You are more expert & capable : As Site Engineer, you are working at the ground level, at the grassroot level, like labourer or mechanic. So, you know more works and facts, which the upper level Engineer of Govt/Client don’t have. In this way, you are far more confident and should feel confident. Those who get upper level job of Client/Govt just after completing the study, and have never worked under Contractor, are less confident and lacking practical field knowledge. Working at lower level makes one always perfect and laborious.
- Working as Site Engineer may not be life-long : For the time being, depending on situation, you are working as Site Engineer. After working for say about 5 – 10 years, you can think some other way. You can do some own business, open your own firm, etc. Take this as a challenge and shape yourself accordingly.
- Always remain cautious : Your owner i.e. Contractor will always go for black practices at the cost of you and engineering. So, always remain cautious for this, what to do, what to say, how to save yourself, etc. Apply your own self-protective brain. What will you do if you are entrapped amidst a gang of dogs or miscreants ? Will you not apply your own self-protective senses ? You try to adopt similar attitude towards your Contractor Boss. You should always remain aware that your boss i. e. the Contractor has appointed you as an “Engineer shield’ to combat the upper level Client/Govt.
- There is ample scope of learning everywhere : Though you are working as Site Engineer without respects and privileges and with all types of hardships, yet you are getting chance to learn a good number of things. For example, you will learn all types of field works at the grassroot level, you will learn working hard, you will learn some black practices, etc. These learnings will remain asset for your future life.
(H/O Mandira Bhattacharjee)
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