The Education Engineering Wing was recently in the news for some alleged irregularities in architectural design and building construction of some educational institutions in the state, leading to a students’ organisation locking up the office of the wing. It was in connection with construction of DM University and Heirok Engineering College. The present state Education Minister Th Radheshyam Singh incidentally hails from Heirok Assembly constituency. The allegations centred upon whether the buildings were actually constructed on the basis of the architectural drawings approved by the Centre and who actually did the drawings, as RUSA authorities seem to have withheld release of funds for the said construction activities due to the controversy. Following the incident of locking up the offices of the Engineering Wing, a few student leaders were arrested by the police. What is more interesting is that why should a students’ organisation, howsoever well-intentioned it may be, should get themselves embroiled in the matter of construction activities of the department. They might cite a thousand reasons for the intervention, but to us there is no reasonable reason for them to get into it. From academic issues to civil society issues, it is quite understandable for the students’ organisations to intervene. Otherwise, their motive or intention has to be questioned.
Having said that, the issue has brought into focus the role of various Engineering wings and cells in various departments and institutes of the state. We had earlier discussed about the decline of the Manipur University in academic terms owing to the diversion of its focus on construction activities after conversion into a Central University through its Engineering Cell. We are praying for such a time when the University Engineering Wing is abolished for the sake of the academic growth of the University. Well, for that matter, there had been a mushrooming growth of Engineering Cells and Wings in various departments of the state during the previous regime, in an effort to totally sidestep the vigorous tests and trials of the state PWD. It may have its share of controversies and scandals, yet the state PWD always try to adhere to the principles laid down in the CPWD manual.
In fact, after the British occupation of Manipur in 1891, Public Works Department of Manipur began as a sub-division of CPWD Division whose head office was at Shillong. During the 56-year period some of the most enduring and outstanding British India buildings and roads were constructed that continue to be landmarks till today. Some these buildings are the Governor's Bungalow, the Inspection Bungalows (IBs) at Kanglatongbi, Kangpokpi, Karong, Maram and Mao and the Administration buildings in the Kangla Complex. The Dimapur-Imphal Highway extending upto Moreh was constructed as a war effort with its arched culverts and bridges made of bricks and lime-mortar. PWD bifurcated into Public Works Department and Electricity Department in 1970. Erstwhile Superintending Engineer (Electricity Circle) became the Head of Department of the latter. On Feb 12, 1981 PWD was trifurcated into PWD, Irrigation & Flood Control Department (IFCD) and Public Health Engineering Department (PHED). The decision was taken purely on creating specialised units of engineering and indeed reasonable.
But, the creation of Engineering Cells in various departments including Autonomous District Councils and Manipur Tribal Development Corporation, the TP Cells was seen as an attempt to bypass the CPWD norms and regulations. These cells and wings were mainly working on deposit works, and favoured contractors had a field day with it. But then, the Engineering Cell of the now infamous Manipur Development Society (MDS) became a darling of the previous regime led by Congress leader Okram Ibobi Singh with it getting many construction works with its benefit of deposit works. The society is now embroiled in several controversies with an active CBI investigation among them. At present, the most favoured agency is the Manipur Police Housing Corporation (MPHC) with it handling most of the choice contract works of the government. The present Chief Minister harps on the timely completion of projects entrusted to it. But who knows, what might lie in store for MPHC in the future?