Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Engineers: More the merrier ??

Time for a quick rant on one of my pet subjects. Came across this news article in Mint today, which talks about the Government considering increasing 200000 engineering seats across the country, ostensibly to address the 'growing shortage of engineers' in India. This assumes that just increasing the supply of engineering seats (to satisfy the growing demand of such seats within the student community - which I am not sure is that true today as it was maybe a decade ago) would resolve the shortage of engineers in the country. What, of course, nobody bothers to look at is the quality of such engineers and how 'employable' they really would be once they get their degrees and diplomas.

To illustrate the point, consider my case. I went to a top-3 engineering college in Mumbai University to 'study' mechanical engineering. And I did fairly well, if the yardstick for that is securing a first class throughout and a first-class with distinction in the final year. Then, as with the majority of my ilk, I joined the software industry, then riding on the Y2K boom. As I strung together pieces of codes, I drifted further away from the 'knowledge' gained during those four years. So much so that, ten years down the line, I admit, with more than a tinge of sadness, that I only vaguely remember the workings of an internal combustion engine or what the Bernoulli principle is. If that is my story, coming from a college that had decent infrastructure and some very good professors, I can only imagine the plight of the tens of thousands of engineers today that graduate from the hundreds of non-descript, two-classroom-two-professors colleges that are present throughout India.

I guess the key question to ask is : shortage of engineers FOR WHAT ? At the time I left engineering college, I was told that the logical and analytical skills were the assets that made me fit for work as a programmer. So if the shortage of engineers is primarily to work in the tech and other sectors, then maybe increasing the number of seats might reduce the resource crunch that is being faced. However, it the shortage of engineers is in the R & D or maybe even the teaching fields, then increasing 20000 seats is simply not the answer. What amazes me is that I never come across the headline that reads: "Government to recruit 5000 teachers for higher education". As long as teaching is not made a lucrative career option, especially in higher education, it will only attract people who could not make it elsewhere. Even during my engineering years I could sense it, where the younger profs were ordinary at best and the experienced ones used to add value to our knowledge. I shudder to think what the situation is now. As long as the standard of teaching is not improved, then adding 2000 or 200000 seats would not make any difference. The students that will come out would be engineers only in name.



Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Change is in the air....

Today it finally happened. It started off early morning, when I left for my workout at around half past six. As soon as I had gotten out of my building, I felt the unmistakable chill in the air. While coming back an hour later, though the sun had come out nice and bright, the temperature did not seem to have increased much. And when a brisk 20-minute walk from Santacruz station to my office resulted in not more than a couple of drops of sweat, it was official. Winter had finally arrived in Mumbai !!

Now the arrival of winter in Mumbai, unlike in the West, does not result in too many ooh-s and aah-s from the local populace. Nor can it be captured on film and posted on Facebook, unlike the many snaps of the first snowfall. But it is an important event nevertheless. For a city that has suffered for nearly ten months in 30+ C temperatures and 90%+ humidity, the onset marks a welcome relief to the millions of Mumbaikars. For one, the daily commuting becomes less of a nightmare. No longer are you subjected to various odours while travelling in the suburban locals. And neither do you arrive in office fully drenched in sweat. I reckon that, in itself, should account for an increasing in productivity at the workplace. No wonder winter is so soothing and pleasant.

For me, the only flipside to winter is the reduced duration of daytime. Unlike most Cancerians (who are creatures of the night as described by Linda Goodman), I am more of a diurnal person. So I do not particularly like it when, by the time I leave office usually at 6.30pm, it is already dark outside. Sometimes, I wonder how people in the northern latitiudes manage to live in the extreme colds and just a few hours of sunlight. Of course, they do get, by way of compensation, pleasant temperatures and eighteen hour days a few months later. Would'nt it be great to have mean daily temperature of 20 C and 15-hour days throughout the year ??.. If wishes were horses.. :)

Till that time, these two months of the winter chill are the ones to enjoy in Mumbai....