As far back as March 2003, Indian Express (March 04, 2003) had reported that
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a statutory body which has been limited so far to overseeing engineering colleges, issued a public notice two days ago announcing that it has ‘‘decided to undertake the responsibility of registration of engineers.’’ Member Secretary of the AICTE, R S Nirjar, when contacted, said that this step was taken to ensure that India was ready to benefit from the WTO regime’s deadline of January 2005 for ‘‘cross-border movement of registered professionals.’’According to a Business Line report (May 07, 2004),
The decision to confer licences on engineers is in line with India’s strategy before the WTO of pressing for movement of registered professionals for temporary periods as the most desirable mode of delivery of services across countries. Though engineers of various branches, including IT and civil engineering, constitute the largest professional sector in the country, they will not be able to undertake foreign assignments after January 2005 unless India puts in place by then a system of registering them.
This special measure needs to be taken only in the case of engineers as the councils regulating other professionals such as doctors, dentists, lawyers and architects already provide licences to them. The AICTE notice published in newspapers on March 2 says that their enrolment shall entitle the ‘‘registered engineers to use the title and style of ‘engineer.’ Only such registered engineers shall be eligible for obtaining a licence from the AICTE to practise the profession of engineering.’’
As a corollary of the licence, the notice adds that the AICTE shall make it ‘‘obligatory for the registered engineers to adhere to prescribed etiquettes and code of ethics.’’ In other words, the AICTE has assumed disciplinary jurisdiction over registered engineers much like how other professionals are subject to the control of their respective councils.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) will constitute a National Engineers Registration and Licensing Board (NERLB) to provide registration and licences for practice of this profession to desiring engineers. Informed sources said that a 31-member governing body would govern NERLB. The principal objective behind the creation of NERLB is for providing registration to the engineering graduates from the recognised institutions and to issue licences for the practice of profession in India with a view to enhance the level of proficiency and ethics. Besides supporting engineers in career development, NERLB would among other things represent the engineering profession at national and international levels. It would also facilitate international mobility of Indian engineers. The NERLB would be headquartered in the Capital and seven regional offices of NERLB will be established at places where AICTE regional offices are already functioning.While the above Business Line report says registration and a license to practice will be provided to desiring engineers, the Hindustan Times (September 02, 2004) reports that all engineers will soon have to compulsorily procure a license.
The technical disciplines and subjects for registration and licensing include mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical, electronics and communication, chemical engineering, civil engineering, mining, textile and information technologies.
All engineers - fresh graduates and even those in employment - will soon have to procure a compulsory licence to take up jobs in companies or offer professional services. An independent multi-discipline engineering professionals' body to be set up by the Union government will issue these licences.The Hindustan Times report goes on to describe a turf war between the Ministries of Urban Development and Human Resource Development on control of the body that will handle the licensing of Engineers.
The licensing of engineers has been proposed to regulate services and set standards. It will also enable them to procure work permits abroad to either take up assignments or execute Indian engineering contracts. In the absence of a licensing regime, engineers going abroad have to subject themselves to the licensing processes of the countries they are going to.
Compulsory licensing of all professionals is mandatory as per the WTO services agreement, to which India is a signatory. It comes into force from January 2005. Currently, there is no system to provide licences to engineers as in other professions.
The HRD Ministry says the All India Council for Technical Education should be in charge. The Commerce Ministry, on the other hand, says the Urban Development Ministry should be in control. Sources say Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi will convene a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries to sort out the issue.Why on earth is the Commerce Ministry batting for another ministry - the Ministry of Urban Development? Indeed, why is the Commerce Ministry involved in this at all? If anything, the Ministry of Science & Technology could argue that they should be in control of the licensing of engineers.