Development of Habitat Schools in India a report prepared for Human Settlements

January 1989
Prepared for: 
Human Settlement Management Institute(HSMI), New Delhi & Ministry of Urban Development,Government Of India
Presented by: 
Sharma, SK, PSA Sundaram, K Dharmarajan, Mulkh Raj, J.R. Bhalla, TS Narayanaswamy, AG Krishna Menon, MN Ashish Ganju, Dr K. L. Nadir, and Michael Slings
Venue: 
Greha New Delhi, India

Formal outcome of the HUDCO-GREHA Proposal for Restructuring Technical Education to meet the requirements of Human Settlements, designed to restructure Architectural Education which would have "provide(ed) Bachelors Courses in Habitat Planning, Habitat Management and Architecture, three year Diploma Course in Habitat Engineering and training in building skills with special emphasis on social aspects, low cost technologies and extension methods will promote a hierarchy of skills required for facilitating housing and human settlement development in a desirable manner."

Proposal for Restructuring Technical Education to meet the requirements of Human Settlements

There is urgent need for reorienting technical education to meet the requirements of housing and human settlements. The National Housing Policy makes a special mention of this. With a view to develop a comprehensive strategy, a Study Group under my chairmanship looked into the matter in all its dimensions and prepared this report. Eminent professionals from various disciplines participated in the Study Group.

A major recommendation of the Study Group is the concept of Habitat Schools which will provide Bachelors Courses in Habitat Planning, Habitat Management and Architecture, three year Diploma Course in Habitat Engineering and training in building skills with special emphasis on social aspects, low-cost technologies and extension methods will promote a hierarchy of skills required for facilitating housing and human settlement development in a desirable manner.

It is hoped that this report will provide a meaningful basis for restructuring technical education in the country to meet the requirements of housing and human settlements.

Excerpts from the National Housing Policy adopted by the Government of India in May, 1988.

13. Housing and Development Agencies
Housing should cater to the needs, preferences and affordability of different households. Designing of such houses and ensuring economy and quality in their construction is best achieved through greater user-involvement.

13.1 Housing agencies and area development authorities in the public sector will, therefore, be reoriented to act more as promoters and facilitators of housing activity rather than builders of housing units. They will play an increasing role in:

(a) development and supply of serviced land;
(b) distribution of building materials and components at reasonable rates;
(c) provision of technical and advisory services; and
(d) development and extension of appropriate construction technology

13.2 To enable these agencies and authorities to perform their new role effectively and efficiently, they will be suitably restructured. Their planning approaches, personnel policies and management systems will be modified to improve their work ethos and made them more responsive to the needs of the people.

13.3 The planning and design standards of these agencies and authorities will be modified to suit local conditions and requirements.

14.Human Resources

14.1 Human resource plays a vital role in the housing sector. Housing and development planners, administrators, architects, engineers and social, health and urban community development workers will be sensitised to achieve the objective of providing shelter to the weaker sections. They will also be encouraged to adopt cost-effective and innovative designs, approaches and strategies.

14.2 The curricula of engineering and architectural colleges and other technical education institutions will be suitably reoriented to promote architecture relevant to the Indian life style and needs of the community. Programmes will be devised to improve the skills and capability of construction workers, artisans and petty contractors. Appropriate technology will be evolved and its use encouraged with a view to increasing productivity. For this purpose, formal and non-formal training facilities will be strengthened and provided on a decentralized basis at the regional, district and taluka levels.

14.3 Programmes to bring about improvement in the employment and working conditions of construction workers will be formulated and implemented.

14.4. Special efforts will be made to upgrade the skills and approve the working conditions of women construction workers.

14.5 Greater involvement of non-governmental organisations in the training of construction workers, both in the formal and informal sectors, will be promoted.

14.6 Non-formal training will also be provided to facilitate maintenance and improvement of housing stock on a self-help basis.

Introduction

The Study Group studied the types of skills required for dealing with the complex requirements of human settlements and the technical education, both formal and informal, needed for developing them. This is a vital area for State action and though it may not provide immediate solutions, it can create a major impact on housing and human settlement development in the right perspective. If immediate attention is not given we may be woefully short of skills for meaningfully dealing with housing and human settlement issues in the upcoming years.

The Study Group noted the relevant observations made in the National Housing Policy document. The National Housing Policy speaks of reorienting housing and development authorities to act as facilitators and promoters rather than builders of housing and restructuring planning approaches, personnel policies and management systems to make them more responsive to the needs of the people. The National Housing Policy also speaks of reorienting the curricula of technical education institutions to promote architecture relevant to the Indian life style and needs of the community and devise programmes to improve construction skills through formal and non-formal training on a decentralised basis.

The Task Force on Housing and Urban Development set up by the Planning Commission in its report submitted way back in Sept. 1983 had made the following pertinent observations:

1. That despite distinct shift of emphasis in the 5th and 6th Plan documents from housing to site and services and self help programmes, there is no evidence that this has actually happened.

2. The bulk of the housing is supplied by private initiative in a variety of ways. This is so even in cities like Delhi where public agencies have a formidable set up for construction.

3. The Task Force noted with concern that in spite of policy commitments to self help housing by the poor, Government sponsored construction housing agencies continue to proliferate. These agencies almost universally are patterned on the bureaucratic model and adopt a rigid brick and mortar approach to housing.

4. The Task Force considers a drastic change in the orientation of all public agencies like Housing Boards engaged in shelter as essential pre-requisite to expanding scope of housing programmes for the poor. The brick and mortar approach is totally unsuited to the problem of masses of shelter less poor.

The situation remain more or less the same today. Improvement is possible only if necessary organizational and attitudinal changes are brought about in the State agencies. These organizations, however, dominated as they are by engineer-builders who know only the ‘brick and mortar approach’ continue to function as construction organizations. Moreover, new Urban Development and Housing Authorities structured as construction organizations, continue to proliferate. It is indeed anomalous to first employ builders and then ask them not to build but to facilitate!

Another problem with the engineer-builders is that they know how to build but do not know what to build. The disciplines which can define what to build and which by training are also better equipped to facilitate, are planners and architects. The curricula of these disciplines are multi-disciplinary providing for planning, designing, building technologies, building systems, history, sociology, rural ecology and other social sciences. It is significant to observe that architectural students take up slum upgrading, inner city improvement and rural housing projects as school whereas civil engineering students do no such thing. There may be some deficiencies in the present curricula of the planners and architects, but this can be rectified by providing greater emphasis on low cost technologies, social issues and extension work than at present.

The more important issue however, in whether we are producing enough planners and architects to meet the requirements of the human settlements.

Shortage of Planners & Architects

One major problem which the country will face in the coming years is in regard to non availability of the right type of professionals for dealing with human settlement issues. At present the various technical institutions in the country, just about 700 architects and town planners graduated every year. Unfortunately, these disciplines are not adequately recognized in public management as a result of which the number of posts in public organizations are far less than needed. Even then, a large number of the posts in most Government organizations are vacant due to non availability of persons of these disciplines. A survey of training needs for the human settlement sector in India, recently conducted by a team sponsored by the Overseas Development Agency of UK, revealed that there are 50 engineers to every architect and over 130 to every planner in India. Further, though most housing agencies have inadequate architectural and planning staff, 34 per cent of posts of architects and 50 per cent of the posts of planners are vacant.

Most students graduated from the educational institutions in these disciplines get absorbed in metropolitan cities leaving few for public agencies and small towns. Rural areas have practically no planning input. These disciplines due to their concentration in large cities tend to be looked upon as elitist. The only way to correct this imbalance is to substantially step up the intake of students in these disciplines so that they may proliferate into the countryside. While doing so, the curricula can be reviewed to provide for greater emphasis on social architecture, low-cost technologies and extension methods.

Scope of Civil Engineering

It appears that a much larger number of civil engineers are graduating from our universities than required. On the assumption that civil engineering is a general purpose discipline, the Directorate of Technical Education has been promoting this discipline in every technical education institution. At present, nearly 10,000 civil engineers are being turned out every year. This over production of civil engineers has now created a serious situation which is evident from the fact that (a) students are not opting for civil engineering resulting in seats being vacant, (b) students passing out in civil engineering are not getting jobs and (c) those already in public institutions which are their largest employers, are getting frustrated due to lack of promotion opportunities. Explaining why half the seats in civil engineering were vacant in his institution, Director, Karunya Educational Trust, Coimbatore wrote to CMD HUDCO.

“I fully agree with you that by producing civil engineers we are misdirecting our energy. We had no choice in this aspect because when the Government granted us permission to run the Institute of Technology, this branch of Engineering was forced on us much against our wish.
We are deeply interested in setting up a Habitat School which obviously is the need of the hour in this country. We will take up this matter with the Government of Tamil Nadu and the Director of Technical Education at Madras and find out from them as to how we can best introduce these disciplines which are oriented towards our social issues.”

Today, even M Tech (Civil Engineering) from IITs are soliciting for jobs. Whenever a few posts are advertised, a large number of unemployed civil engineers apply. Furthermore, those already in Government have very poor promotion chances. Thus over production and over recruitment have resulted in the civil engineers coming in the way of each other. Further, it is obvious that Civil Engineers are being called upon to handle jobs for which they are not trained.

Concept of Habitat School

In order to produce the right type of professionals for dealing with human settlement issues, a concept of Habitat Schools has been evolved. The Habitat School will comprehensively deal with habitat issues with the right type of social bias and will have vertical integration from degree courses to construction skills. Essentially, the Habitat School will provide for the following courses:

  1. Bachelors in Habitat Planning with emphasis on settlement and neighbourhood planning keeping in view local living patterns.
  2. Bachelors in Habitat Management covering project, maintenance, infrastructure sanitation and general management.
  3. Bachelors in Architecture with emphasis on social issues, technology options and extension work.
  4. Three Year Diploma Course in Habitat Engineering providing for combination of technical and extension skills. This will be after higher secondary 910 + 2) in the science steam.
  5. Training of artisans and small contractors in low-cost construction systems which will also be laboratory work for graduate and diploma students.

The three year Diploma Course in Habitat Engineering will be treated as a foundation course for graduate studies. After the three year diploma course, the students would be required to do at least one year field work. Based on the performance in the diploma course and field work, the students would be selected for two year advanced studies in planning, management or architecture leading to Bachelors Degree in Habitat Planning, Habitat Management or Architecture.

Since the success of various programmes largely depends on how well they are managed, the graduate studies in habitat management will be of strategic importance. These graduates will be best suited for appointment as Municipal Officers, Housing Managers Project Managers, etc.
Diploma holders of the Habitat School whose slow aptitude for technology can along with the Diploma holder in Civil Engineering take AMIE examinations. Such integrated studies can bring about greater cohesion and understanding between the various disciplines.

Action Plan

It is felt that the professional manpower needs for human settlements for the next few decades require to be properly reassessed and education oriented to support them. However, the gap is so large that without waiting for further studies, some steps can be immediately taken. Action on the following lines needs immediate consideration.

  1. Government should immediately set up at least ten Habitat Schools in different parts of the country. Priority may be given to States like Rajastahan, Bihar, Orissa, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, North Eastern States, etc in which planning and architecture are not being taught at all and Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, etc. where there is no School of Planning & Architecture but a few seats have been provided in the Engineering Colleges.
  2. The course in civil engineering in some institutions may be replaced by course in planning and architecture. The problem of faculty and other logistic problems will have to be sorted out. This may be relatively less difficult in institutions in which both civil engineering and architecture are presently being taught.
  3. Diploma course in Habitat Engineering providing for both technical and extension education be introduced in all Polytechnics.
  4. The course of Architectural Assistant in Polytechnics be expanded and given a field orientation so that they are available for working on projects especially socially oriented projects. The course of Architectural Draftsman should be re-designated as course of Architectural Assistant with field orientation.
  5. Building Centres which will function as laboratories for the diploma students and provide training for artisans be set up in very polytechnic.
  6. Just as IIT/IIMs were established in collaboration with foreign universities, efforts should be made to establish collaboration of the proposed Habitat Schools with foreign universities which have specialized in Third World human settlement problems.
  7. Close relations should be established between the educational institutions and State authorities. It should be made incumbent on every State agency concerned with human settlements to entrust a few projects to the Schools of Planning and Architecture and Habitat Schools.
  8. The Habitat Engineers from the Habitat Schools should be engaged by public authorities especially Slum Boards, and by professional firms and developers on contract basis against super numeracy posts to provide them the necessary practical training to enable them to go in for the advanced studies. The Habitat School should have a placement office to assist the students to get suitable placement.
  9. A large number of posts of architects and planners in public organizations are vacant. Recruitment procedures take several years by which time the candidates get absorbed elsewhere. Recruitment of architects and planners should be taken out of the preview of the Public Service Commissions and the agencies allowed to recruit through their own recruitment procedures themselves. Rigid recruitment procedures are required when there are more jobs seekers than jobs, not when there is acute shortage. This should be accompanied by a review of the existing recruitment rules and organizational structures of public agencies to facilitate intake of the students turned out by the various Habitat Schools in different States.
  10. One major problem likely to be face is in regard to faculty. Since there is an acute shortage of planners and architects and the few that are there, are largely in the metropolitan cities, it will be difficult to get good faculty for the proposed institutions. Appropriate incentives should be given to full time faculty and greater use should be made of visiting faculty as are done in institutions like School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi and Ahmedabad.

Initiatives by HUDCO

The Ministry of Urban Development and HUDCO have launched a national programme of setting up a network of Building Centres for training of artisans in construction skills. At present there is no institutional arrangement for training of artisans, especially masons. The Industrial Training Institutes do not reach them as they do not fulfil their minimum qualification requirements. There has been substantial increase in construction activity throwing up demand for a large number of building artisans. To meet this demand, unskilled workers who pick up some work at the site, start calling themselves masons resulting in poor workmanship and wastage of materials. Furthermore, they have no exposure to low cost technologies which economize on materials. This is the prime reason why such technologies have not been widely adopted. The proposed network of Building Centres will function as training cum production centres thus fulfilling an important need. The better educated and entrepreneurial artisans will be trained as small contractors who will manage a group of workers and assist the people especially the poor, to build houses suiting their needs.

With a view to promote habitat studies, HUDCO established in 1985 its Human Settlement Management Institute providing in service training for housing managers and other professionals. This year, it has, in collaboration with the Slum Wing DDA, established a Habitat Polytechnic as an adjunct to the Building Centre set up in Nizamuddin New Delhi. The Habitat Polytechnic will provide three year diploma course in Habitat Engineering.

HUDCO has initiated dialogue with some educational trusts for setting up full-fledged Habitat Schools which will provide for the entire range of instructions from graduate studies to construction skills. The response has been encouraging. HUDCO has engaged a group of professionals to develop the curricula for such Habitat Schools.

Urgent consideration by the Planning Commission, Ministry of Urban Development Ministry of Education and the Directorate of Technical Education is required in order to realize the objectives of the National Housing Policy.

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