Need of Industry Status to Construction

Professor S.V.Deodhar, Dean and Professor, Sri Vaishnav Institute of Technology and Science Indore (M.P.)

Introduction

Construction engineering is inter related complex of operations whereby civil engineering structures are constructed or erected. The end product of any construction is finished structure for its functional use. Construction processes may be simple, complex or complicated, mechanized, semi-mechanized or none mechanized. Construction is vital for national development. It may be defined as the erection, renovation, repair and demolition of immovable structures and the alteration of natural topography of the ground. In construction, both the items i.e. activity and the resulting end product are notably visible and tangible. Construction reflects the economic, social and cultural activities and values of society. The building and the engineering projects with which people come in daily contact, affect in some complex way, their mood and attitude, their effectiveness and the quality of their lives. Conversely the traditions, aspirations and vitality of people are reflected in their settlements and their constructional environments.

Construction has been a part of the tradition not only in India but throughout the world. It is also a national heritage. Ancient constructions in India such as the city of Mohenjo-Daro, the historic monuments like Taj Mahal, temples and other religious places, forts and towers reflect that India’s builders and craftsmen were responsible for a variety of civil works in India and abroad. Soon after independence in 1947, the country was taken to the planned economic growth. The successive five year plans have laid greater emphasis on infra structural development, irrigation, energy, transportation, communication, health, housing and so many other activities with the objectives of improving the quality of life of people in India. Consequently, mammoth river velley projects and power projects were built. Construction content as percentage of total development plan outlay in almost all the five year plans have been found more than 40%. In terms of construction materials which appears to be near self sufficient. It may be of interest to note that in 2007, India was the second largest country in the world in production of cement 180 Million Tones) with US being the third largest (100 Million Tones). As such it can be deduced that India may also be the second largest in the world in consumption of cement and concrete.

Construction activity in India is estimated at about Rs.700,000 crores per annum. In the 11th plan period 2007-12, the estimated annual outlay is around Rs.290,000 crores only in infrastructure project. In the 12th plan period 2012-17, this estimated to be $1 trillion i.e. about Rs.45,00,000 crores. This works out to be Rs.900,000 crores to be spent every year. If we add to this the construction in the real estate and other private projects, the figure become mind boggling. Compared to the manufacturing sector, the construction industry is almost unique where the project is sold before it is made. Construction activities are field and project oriented as such it requires different type of treatment than that of regular industry.

As far as human resources are concerned, India is producing largest number of civil engineers and diploma holders involved in construction industry. The construction industry may be providing employment to over 50 Lakh work force. This industry involves construction of major irrigation projects, river valley projects, major and minor road projects, tall structures, offshore and ocean structures, major and minor bridges, railways, airports, nuclear structures and variety of other special and prestigious structures. There are cases that two to three generations have been working in this industry for last many years.

Construction Industry

The construction industry in India has grown and made significance strides along with many other developments. A large number of big, medium and small sizes construction firms have come into existence in the last few years. According to some estimates, out of 244.6 million workforce in 1983, there were more than 11 million workers who were actively engaged in construction work including 90,000 contractors including pety contractors. Construction even today also is the second largest economic activity in India next to agriculture. There is hardly any sector which does not have construction as a component. It varies approximately from 10 to 20% in research and education, 40% in transportation, 75 to 80% in power, irrigation and flood control and 100% in housing. Construction activity therefore plays a catalyst role and is an important element in economic activity and development. In other words it has an economic multiplier effect.

Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC), New Delhi was set up in March 1996 by the planning commission, along with the constituents of Indian Construction Industry as the apex organization with the twin objectives of professionalizing the functioning and providing systematic institutional structure to various construction activities. HRD for construction workers in India was one of the first major projects taken up by CIDC.

What surprise most is that despite its massive contribution to national building activities, construction industry in India has not yet acquired the status which it deserves. It has not yet been given the recognition as an industry. However, people have started giving it, its own importance and weightage even then a lot more is required to be done for its recognisition as an industry. The reasons may be:

  • The available statics suggest that almost 95% of the construction industry in India is in the unorganized sector where fly-by-night operators rule. Of remaining 5%, more than 85% comprises semi-skilled and un-skilled workers.
  • There is no specific guideline in construction industry. They might have been framed but not implemented sincerely.
  • Construction methods though have changed but old methods are still in use for small structures.
  • There is no special schemes available to meet the financial requirements for large scale technological changes and modernization.
  • Standardization and quality control are rather weak.
  • Many contracting firms run without adequate technically trained staff and without much appreciation for technical considerations.
  • Little attention is given to appropriate choice of material and its quality.
  • Linkage between R and D departments and construction industry is weak. It takes years to develop confidence on findings of research and development.
  • Wages to labor class in private sector are not fixed. Mostly workers are employed purely on temporarily basis and on daily wages. Their services are not ensured as such during accidents if some compensation is paid, it is arbitral with no fixed guidelines.
  • A large number of specialist firms have developed like centering and formwork, concreting etc but they do not have their permanent labor. Moreover, there is no laid down procedure for their training as such quality of work is affected.
  • Though there is a minimum wage act, but it is hardly implemented strictly. Moreover, due to easily availability of labor force, persons are ready to work at lower wages also. No safety norms are observed during construction as if some accident occurs, every- one throws responsibility on others and the worker under consideration suffers.
  • Engineering colleges and polytechnics do not have a syllabus which integrates health and safety learning into engineering knowledge. Most of the universities are having age old syllabus covering more technical subjects giving little or no importance to safety of workers and their health.
  • The linkage between industry and technical institutes is very poor. It is only limited to global institutes like IITS and a few others.
Need of Industry Status to Construction

A few big contractors/global contractors involved in big projects like river valley projects, Road construction projects on boat systems, appoint permanent engineers, supervisors and a few skilled labors. Such firms have their own machineries and their operators employed on permanent basis but they also appoint unskilled labour or helpers on daily basis. Such appointed laborers do not come under factory act and therefore do not get benefits, a factory worker is supposed to get.

Therefore, it is essential to take some measures to improve working conditions in construction industry. There is a need to overcome these setbacks and make construction industry in India most modern to meet future challenges. Training of labor regarding the work is very essential to train them so as to improve the work quality.

Construction Team

Right from planning stage of any civil engineering project to its completion and later on handing over it to public/user, number of different persons and specialized firms are involved for its satisfactory completion. All of these persons and firms involved in that project construction form a building industry. These different persons have their own entity in itself with their own special features and problems and a different approach in each case. Following are the personals that form a building industry.

  • Owner may be a private person or a government organization.
  • Engineer/Architect i.e. an engineering firm, or a government agency.
  • Contractor main and sub contractors
  • Specialist Firms providing services for work related to electrical, elevators, formwork, concreting, shuttering / scaffolding plumbers etc. also called as pity contractors.
  • Quantity Surveyors
  • Material Suppliers
  • Builders/promoters/developers
  • Surety bondmen
  • Users
All these persons forming a team have their special role. Owner has to put his hard earnings, engineer/architect has to design, supervise, contractor has to executive/construct, quantity surveyor has to measure quantities and prepare the bills, material supplier has to supply the materials, and so on.

In case of flats, builder/promoter/developer constructs the flats and sells. Surety bondman is a new concept in India. It is common elsewhere. He assures regarding quality to owner and user, at the same time payment to contractor. The users are the most important people of this team who are mostly neglected. They actually face the difficulties of poor planning. In building the users generally decide whether house has been planned functionally well or not. In many countries, for big housing projects, at first stage, only a few houses are constructed. These houses are given to public for use and to find fault if any. Based on suggestions made, guanine modifications are made and project is completed accordingly. This practice is not common in India. Though builders/promoters have started constructing sample flats for exhibition to public, but it is just a formality, flats are not redesigned or modified as per their suggestions.

Construction Economy

The cost of a project depends on
  • Material Cost,
  • Labour Cost,
  • Tools and Equipments,
  • Overheads and Supervision
  • Profit, and
  • Overall Management including disputes if any.
Economy can only be achieved by proper planning, control and management of almost all activities and events involved in construction. It is prime job of each agency involved in construction. He should have proper knowledge and efficient methodology of construction. It has been found that due to less payment of wages to labour, work is held for a long time which consequently increases the cost of the project. Hence minimum wages must be paid as per minimum wage act. Until each person is trained properly, he/she will not be able to do job efficiently and effectively, thereby making project costly. Training makes the labour skilled and efficient, thereby increasing his capacity to work. There should be provision for incentives for good worker and penalty for the defaulter. This is only possible if a status of industry is given to construction industry. Factory act must be made compulsory to this industry effectively.

Need of Industry Status to Construction

It has been observed that a large number of projects are held up due to disputes between owner and contractor. There are many reasons of it. These disputes can be minimized if standard specifications are made at national level obligatory to all construction activities anywhere in India. Though it is difficult due to varying conditions at site but if an attempt is made, it can be achieved. This will sort out much litigation throughout the country. This will avoid possibilities of after-thought by the contractor. It will also enable both parties to the contract to arrive at what is payable fact as all items exist as a part of contract. This will also help in fast execution of job with a good team spirit. However, it also needs a status of industry to construction activities.

Timely completion of works to stipulated standards is possible only when a spirit of give and take and mutual trust and confidence exists between the client and contractor and both parties to meet the contractual requirements without trying to take undue advantage of each other.

Construction Safety

Construction safety is mostly neglected. The issues like identification and evaluation of major hazards, adoption and implementation of procedures for systematically identifying major hazards arising from normal and abnormal operations and the assessment of their likelihood and severity will automatically come into existenence once industry status is given to this industry. A few contracting firms involved in big projects like tunnel construction where risk involved is more, adopt safety measures to some extent. However workers also, because they are not properly trained and familiar with safety equipments and find difficult to work, do not follow safety norms even if they are made available to them. Though they know that these safety measures are meant for their safety but have a tendency to avoid them. Even contracting firms do not compel workers to use these safety equipments as they want more work to be executed in small duration to maximize their profit.

Need of Industry Status

As such considering all points discussed here it is essential to give an industrial status to construction industry in real sence. It will smoothen the construction process and will solve many problems of the workers involved in construction. Moreover, quality of construction will also get improved due to proper training to workers. In long, this run will make the project more economical by reducing the unnecessary overhead costs, once an industrial status is given, contractors will use management tools and techniques effectively which are random as on today. Proper planning of the entire sequence of activities in advance and timely inter linkage between different components of the project will make each to realize the benefits achieved by it. As such real industrial status to this industry is very essential though it may be objected by others.
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