Billionaire N R Narain Murthy has again sparked a nation-wide debate by proclaiming that the infrastructure industry needs to work three shifts a day during an interview. SURFACES REPORTER spoke to varied stakeholders of the infrastructure industry to try and find out, if the statement holds any truth. An exclusive story by SURFACES REPORTER.
India is a rapidly developing nation. The government has already set up a vision of becoming a $40 trillion economy by 2047 and be classified into developed economy. According to the data published by the govt websites, there is a need of rapid infrastructure development for which the country has already embarked many ambitious projects including one of world’s tallest archway railway bridge on the Chenab River in Kashmir. Similar projects are happening all over the country.
However, these projects have left the cities in chaos. For instance, in Mumbai, the ongoing metro work have added to the already stressed roads infrastructure. In the backdrop of similar situation in Bengaluru, Mr Murthy made the comment during the Bengaluru Tech Summit – 2023.
He commented that, "They should not be just coming at 11am and going back at 5pm. This is what I see. In nations that have high aspirations, people work two shift and I have seen people working at midnight there. We want to be better than those countries. So, why can’t we ask people to work three shifts.”
Ar Prem Nath, Principal, Prem Nath & Associates, Mumbai, who has been doing vivid architectural and design work for the last fifty years and credited for doing many firsts in the country including India’s first multiplex mall and first revolving restaurant in the country, completely supports Mr Murthy’s opinion. He commented, “Infrastructure is a lifeline of any development. For any development work, proper infrastructure needs to be in place. Around 30-40 years back, Delhi experienced an upheaval when metro work started. The same thing is happening in Mumbai now. The city of Mumbai is completely choked up today due to the medieval road infrastructure which was developed almost sixty years back.”
Ar Anoj Tevatia, Founding Partner, Design Forum International, a firm who has designed AIPL Joystreet and M2K Corporate Park etc, said, “The statement from Mr Murthy aims to restructure staffing in all industries. Operations can be planned in a manner where employees can work three shifts a day. Having said this, the employees' work-life balance should be prioritised. To ensure proper allocation of human resources, it is important to conduct a thorough assessment and divide resources accordingly.”
Currently, India is having the youngest population in the world with almost more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. This makes the need for infra development a lot more challenging as it is the only way to create more opportunity for the next generation. Seconding the opinion, Ar Abhay Purohit, President Council of Architecture (COA), the apex body responsible for regulation and education in the architecture profession, commented, “The finance allocation for infrastructure and housing projects in budget is increasing every year. The rate with which we are working, we will create one equivalent to The USA in every decade till next three decades. The level of such infrastructure can only be achieved with undeniable dedication which makes the statement very viable for the modern India where we require efficient and ever-increasing manpower.”
Required number of professionals is way less
Another argument here is that large scale development requires huge manpower in terms of workers as well as skilled professionals. Here comes the catch as there is not enough number of skilled professionals particularly in architecture community. Ar Abhay Purohit added, “In a developed nation, the average architect to population ratio is one on every five thousand. Being a developing country, we require at least one to every ten thousand which renders into one architect per ten thousand people. As a nation, we currently require 14 lakh architects while we only have 1.5 lakh. It means that there is ten times more work which requires similar number of technocrats. They will need proper training to make themselves acquaint to the growing needs of the country and to be competent globally. Everyone, be it designers, architects, builders, supervisors or workers, have to gear themselves to face the challenges of the new India.”
Can we take the plan ahead for multiple shifts in Infra sector
Most professionals SURFACES REPORTER spoke to are in the favour of the same. Dr Ananta Singh Raghuvanshi, Founder-President, NAREDCO MAHI says, “There is no harm in putting our efforts in this direction to speed up the development work. However, we need to take certain things into consideration, like safety and health. The first and foremost important thing is that safety shouldn't be compromised. For instance, the transition from one shift to next shift needs preparation at the workers’ as well as the supervisory level which should be done earnestly if we are talking about multiple shifts. Second aspect is exploitation or over ambition. Proper rules and regulations should be laid out so that no one is expected or willingly does two shifts one after another. We need to make sure that neither the contractors exploit the workers nor they fatigue or over exert themselves. Barring these two concerns, I believe it’s a brilliant idea considering the speed of India's current development and to catch up with our global counterparts.”
Ar Prem Nath added, “While India is riding high on development, it doesn't have adequate protection. Protection here signifies, transportation, ease of movement for people and goods, health, hygiene, security, law and order, safety, telecommunication etc., In order to truly develop our infrastructure, we first need to strengthen our protection. Countries like Hong Kong, Singapore etc., have gone through similar transitions. Therefore, I feel there should be no restriction on development of infrastructure and working time,” he added.
Talking about the responsibilities as an architect in order to create a safer environment to work in multiple shifts including night shifts, Ar Anoj Tevatia, commented, “As an architect, if we want people to inhabit an area, we must first create infrastructure such as roads, services, and facilities. The same applies to the service providers industry. We should plan in advance to provide shuttle services, food, and other amenities to those who work odd hours.
It's important to understand that architecture is just one aspect of infrastructure. Construction, workforce, and shifts are crucial to creating a successful environment. By planning ahead, we can ensure our construction goals are met while providing a safe and secure environment for those who work odd hours.”
SURFACES REPORTER too feels that working multiple shifts can be the key to speed up the development and move the stagnant projects forward. However, it is a very subjective topic that needs a clear narrative if put in action. We would like to know your views too. Comment on the story or write to us at Press@surfacesreporter.com if you wish to publish your opinion.