The Chairperson of the prestigious School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a “rethink” on the proposed takeover of SPAs by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). In a letter written last week, with copies to the MoUD and HRD Ministry, Chairperson Amogh Kumar Gupta has objected to the recent decision to take architecture education and polytechnic institutes out of the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s purview. Calling for status quo, Gupta has sought Modi’s intervention to help the HRD Ministry retain all the three SPAs in Delhi, Bhopal and Vijayawada.
Dismissing the logic that architecture education would be best served under the MoUD Ministry for it directly deals with the subject, Gupta has argued that limiting SPAs to just urban planning would mean limiting their contribution and output. SPAs, he wrote, are educational institutions where skilling and professional knowledge are as important as intellectual training, and hence they should remain within the HRD Ministry’s ambit.
As first reported by The Indian Express on March 9, the HRD Ministry had strongly opposed the proposal to transfer control of architecture education to the MoUD, at a meeting held between Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, MoUD Secretary Rajiv Gauba and former higher education secretary V S Oberoi in the last week of February.
Oberoi is learnt to have argued that the HRD Ministry should control architecture education as it falls within the meaning of “technical education”, which is regulated by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). Sinha had, however, prevailed over Oberoi. The minutes of the meeting issued to the HRD Ministry in the first week of March clearly state that the Council of Architecture, set up via the Architects Act 1972, would be brought under the MoUD as architecture education would be best served under a ministry that deals directly with the subject.
Gauba then wrote to Sinha on March 7 seeking to also bring all the three SPAs within the purview of his ministry on the ground that the transfer of SPAs is “mutatis mutandis” once the power to regulate architecture education is allocated to the MoUD. Speaking to The Sunday Express, the SPA, Delhi, Chairperson confirmed that he had written to the PM. “First of all, I haven’t challenged the decision. I have only made suggestions based on my experience. Secondly, it’s important that we understand the objective of education. Education produces human resource. We cannot view them as human products. In SPAs we teach courses related to environmental engineering, rural and urban planning and road transport. Shall we then transfer, say, each of those departments to the Rural Development Ministry, Road Transport Ministry and so on? This is my opinion, I could be wrong,” Gupta said.
Gupta was appointed chairperson of SPA, Delhi, in February 2017. He is a Bhopal-based architect with BArch from MNIT Bhopal, followed by MTech (Environment Engineering and Public Health) from the institute. SPA, Bhopal, Chairperson Bimal Patel refused to comment on the issue. Brinda Somaya, the chairperson of the SPA in Vijayawada, said, “As far as I’m concerned, the SPA, Vijaywada, is extremely independent. It’s one of the institutes of national importance and as long as I have been the chairperson, I have had full independence in whatever decision I have had to take. I’m not a political person. What happens in Delhi, I leave it to them as long as I have the freedom to do what I believe is best for the SPA that I’m the chairperson of.”