Just when civil engineers in India had begun to celebrate the return of the good times via the rush to build infrastructure, one of their largest clients, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has closed it’s doors on engineers who frequently switch jobs with consultants and contractors.
In the last four years, the highways authority has black-listed around 120 engineers, whom NHAI has accused of leaving private consultants and contractors working on highway projects in the lurch. NHAI says that sudden resignations in these private firms have contributed to projects not meeting deadlines.
The standard remarks recorded by NHAI against the civil engineers are that they “had left the project of their own accord”, or that the engineer had “left the project mid-way”.
Such disciplinary action needed to be taken in order to ensure that project deadlines were met, said G. Sharan, additional director general (roads) in the Union ministry of shipping, road transport and highways.
“This is only to ensure that engineers do not leave in the middle of highway projects,” added Sharan who, until recently, was with NHAI as member (technical).
NHAI’s disciplinary initiative, while it currently involves a small number of engineers, has far-reaching consequences for civil engineers because every national highway contract in the country is issued by the highways authority
This in effect means that an engineer who is black-listed by NHAI can forget about working on a national highway project till the time the authority is ready to rehabilitate him.
A senior member of an engineers’ association, who didn’t want his name disclosed for fear of further annoying the authority, said it was wrong on the part of the highways authority to bar engineers from working on highway contracts.
“This (decision to blacklist engineers) is not fair. There is a lot of mobility these days and it does create a problem for the engineers. I personally think that NHAI should not come in the way of our right to work,” he said.
According to the senior consultant, in the last two years, the salaries of civil engineers have shot up and they are flooded with job offers like never before. “I would say that the average pay packet has jumped by around 20%,” he said.
Project managers, who usually have around 20 years experience, project engineers and senior project engineers are key positions that an increasing number of companies are finding difficult to fill amid the rush to implement major road and other infrastructure projects in the country.