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Why Council of Architecture (COA) is not the true representation of Architects in India

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Manish Mishra
Manish Mishra
Architect, Teacher and entrepreneur

Being an architect and a teacher who kept on looking for reasons for current scenarios, I stumbled on one little fact that elections in the Council of Architecture are not truly representative of all the Architects in the country. As per the Architects Act passed in 1972, the following groups were identified from which members of the Council of Architecture are to be elected.

The Council shall consist of the following members, namely:-

  1. Five architects possessing recognized qualifications elected by the Indian Institute of Architects from among its members;
  2. Two persons nominated by the All India Council for Technical Education established by the Resolution of the Government of India in the late Ministry of Education No.F.16-10/44-E.III, dated the 30th November, 1945;
  3. Five persons elected form among themselves by heads of architectural institutions in India imparting full-time instruction for recognised qualifications;
  4. The Chief Architects in the Ministries of the Central Government to which the Government business relating to defence and railways has been allotted and head of the Architectural Organization in the Central Public Works Department, ex officio;
  5. One person nominated by the Central Government;
  6. An architect from each State nominated by the Government of that state;
  7. Two persons nominated by the Institution of Engineers (India) from among its members; and
  8. One person nominated by the Institution of Surveyors of India from among its members.

Indian Institute of Architects is a Society, membership of which is not automatic and is against the payment of fees. Most of the Indian Architects are not members of IIA for various reasons, mainly architects don’t feel they belong to IIA or it truly represents them.

As much as members nominated by other Govt. Bodies are concerned, they represent institutional views of those government Institutions in decision making of the Council of Architecture. If we take Indian elections as the model for any elections to be held all across India and if we consider these groups identified in 1972 Architects act as political parties representing various views and class of citizens/architects. We will realize we have left the possibility as given by any Indian elections, of an Independent candidate, in the elections held at Council of Architecture to elect its members.

We have also seen in the past those same representatives repeatedly get elected in the Council of Architecture as members and in spite of series of allegations, illegalities, mistakes, and disastrous policy decisions, the elected representatives are not held responsible or no inquiry is held. Since there is no direct election, there is no direct responsibility or transparency is built-in or public views at large are accounted for.

Due to insufficient representation, there is no process built-in for gradual self-correction, and elections at the Council of Architecture have been reduced to a game of musical chairs. All the private architects who are not in academics and are not members of IIA, which is the majority of Architects in the country shall get a choice to represent their voice in the Council of Architecture.

The current and past COA leadership is not the true leadership representing all the architects of the country, in fact, it does not represent even 5% of those and it is the reason why it could never initiate real hard-hitting reforms within itself because it does not identify with those reforms that we have been asking for decades.

This problem that elected members of Council of Architecture are not our true representatives and are unable to hear our voice is not going to resolve very soon, because it is enshrined in our very faulty act and in the proposed amendment being prepared by COA, a possible solution to bring true representation is not proposed as well. It is exactly how few British ruled over India and legitimized their actions by brutalizing our culture and wealth for the sake of false reforms by calling us illiterate.

This Khichdi of a govt. and independent non-representational body has lead to a mess because whenever we asked for real reforms, we would hear, it is not in our mandate, but then why do we elect you? This governance thing could have been done much more efficiently by a simple bureaucrat, why go through so much of Tamasha of non-existent ideology and representation?

It is the reason why we have been receiving titbits of here and there decisions to show us that something is happening, why COA is inspector raj, because that’s what British were, why our Architecture education could never become truly Indian? It is exactly the reason which has lead to our deterioration and the reason we have been looking around for so long.

COA is ideologically incapable to give us real decisions, in fact, COA is exactly the reason why Indian Architecture is in so dismal state.

I do not seek to propose any solutions to this, because I know people at Council of Architecture are not capable of implementing any solution, but maybe it is time for us to reconsider our positions vis-a-vis COA.

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Manish Mishra
Manish Mishra
Architect, Teacher and entrepreneur
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