An Engineer’s Lament – on Engineer’s day

The day today started with Red FM reminding me on my drive to office that it was Engineers’ Day in India today, in remembrance of one of the greatest engineers India has had, Sh. Vishwasveriya. And then Red FM made fun of Engineers with the twenty something RJ mentioning them as “do-nothing guys”, who get into Engineering because they have nothing better to do… I forgive him God, for he know not. 

But what about you, all of you intellectual messiahs?

  • Have you ever thought which Engineer first dreamt of the Golden Quadrilateral that Vajpayee is said to have built?
  • Have you ever thought of the Engineer that first drew the lines of the Delhi Metro on a map?
  • Have you ever thought of the Engineer that first planned the Dedicated Freight Corridor?
  • Have you ever thought of the Engineer that first thought that a tunnel could be dug through the Banihal mountains?
  • Have you ever thought of the Engineer that built India’s first space-craft?  Or the one who thought that he could make a Cryogenic Engine within India when the world imposed sanctions on India?
  • Do you even think of the Engineers that dreamt of, planned and executed water supply to the parched deserts of Rajasthan via the Rajasthan Canal?

Leaving aside the pioneers, do you EVEN think of the Engineers that stay awake at night ensuring your electricity supply while you sleep? Or of the Engineers that stay awake all night in the Metro maintaing your trains so that you can travel to work in the morning?

Chances are that you only find faults in what they do.

You curse them, while you pick a phone made by them. On a wireless connection maintained by engineers, in a room lit by power supplied by engineers, on a bed whose plies are made in a factory designed by engineers, roam around on cement made by engineers, look outside the window through glass manufactured by engineers, roam around on machines made by engineers, and like that guy on Red FM you curse engineers on a mic made by engineers. They are invisible to you, because they do not sing songs, they do not do dharnas, they do not ask for raises. Because they are too busy working.

I feel respect for Engineers is diminishing everyday, with the slew of ill-equipped institutes churning out millions of ill-trained engineers. But then you take Engineers out of the equation, and the world as we know it will fall in day. And then we crib that they leave India for greener pastures abroad.

I remember my Dad’s days as an Engineer in the government, when Bureaucracy and Engineering were on par. Where a Chief Engineer had complete authority over the decisions he needed to take. Today, it is a stifling environment for Engineers in the government with them being over-ruled on technical points, being devoid of all administrative authority and reporting to generalists.

You never hear us. We don’t switch off the power in midnight, we don’t stop the trains midway. If we do what the Doctors do in hospital strikes every year, India’s wheels would stop, India would stop in its tracks.

Except for the odd Kalam or Sreedharan, you can hardly think of an Engineer being awarded or glorified at the national level.

A shehnai vaadak holds more power in his hands than the person who rotates the wheels that move India. That’s the sad truth of India. We have buried our Engineers beneath a pyramid of politicians and bureaucrats, killed their will-power and be-littled their contribution. This is my Eulogy to the profession.

India is cursed. It can NEVER be a developed country, because to develop, you need to take along the engineers. And the engineers are fed up of India and they will continue to do so till you hold on to them and say to them, “listen dude, you rock, we need you!”.


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