If you are tired of the traffic, the illegal and unsafe buildings and the sad quality of public spaces and infrastructure, this is a story you must read.

Let us imagine that there is a nation where young men and women join the profession of fruit-selling as they believe that that studying for five years and earning a degree will grant them an exclusive legal right to sell fruits. When they are told that there was a professional code of conduct with a fair price list that all fruit-sellers must follow, they are bound to think that, once qualified, they would be able to serve their profession honestly, without succumbing to price competition to survive.

But, what if they discover that exclusive licence to sell fruits meant nothing, as any Young, Peat or XYZ Pvt. Ltd. with no ethical binding of a professional code of conduct was allowed to sell fruits in the same market?

When people who were imagining that they were working for a legally regulated profession with a binding code of conduct discover the bitter reality that it is a cut-throat business in a market where the pitch about the qualification or quality was drowned in the din of unregulated vendors wedging a price war, what will they do?

The honest answer is, most of them will have no choice but to join the under-cutting of price and, in turn quality. So, over the years, a fruit market operating under such circumstances is bound to get reduced to a place where vendors selling cheap fruits will outnumber those focusing on quality.

If this disastrous fate of fruit market is easy to understand, let us take note that each year, a number of young men and women join the honourable profession of architecture hoping and trusting Council of Architecture constituted under The Architect Act, 1972, to ensure that their qualification will enjoy legal sanctity and exclusivity.

They join profession of architecture under the illusion that, like a doctor, a lawyer and a CA, the legal recognition they have will allow them to work ethically without getting overpowered by forces of commerce. But, when they start working in real world, they quickly realise that profession of architecture has turned into a free-for-all fish market where survival of professional ethics is impossible because sanctity of their qualification is not recognised by the market players.

While disillusioned architects are silently struggling to find a way to compete with plethora of engineers pouring in the market every year on price front, policy-makers of the sector are not realising that the nation is paying a huge price.

Unnoticed by all, the demise of architect as a professional has removed the only moral regulator of the real estate and infrastructure sector. Architect was expected to have moral authority to take care of human interest in habitat building, but he is completely undermined by short-sighted understanding of his role by policy-makers and judiciary.

The net result is, we are a lawless nation in terms of real estate and infrastructure building, where builders and contractors call the shots instead of a professional. As commercial interest drives development, our cities are now built solely on the logic of making more money for the builders and developers. With guardian of human interest set aside, the urban development in India is a soulless chaos.

The story of the architect is not completely unique as we are a nation hell-bent on self-destruction by turning professions into businesses. We have eroded profession of medicine and law substantially by allowing monetary greed to replace sense of social contribution; but, they still have powerful regulating bodies with a voice, so there is some hope.

Unfortunately, in case of architecture, the issue is completely muddled up by a Council of Architecture making doubtful claims of architects’ having competence of doing engineering.

With architects, the flag-bearers of human-linked aspects of built habitat, and engineers, the experts of technology-linked aspect of building at logger-heads, it is highly unlikely that we can restore the order soon enough. As we continue with forcing architects to compete in pricing with engineers, we are slowly but surely removing all possibilities for any ethical player to survive in the market.

If India wants to save her cities, we need restoration of statutory empowerment of the architect as a moral and legal authority with a mandate that human and humane priorities are not lost to the massive forces of commerce and corruption that drive real estate and infrastructure sector.

India desperately needs enactment of Engineers Act and rephrasing of the scope of work of architects in Council of Architecture’s manual. Architects and engineers must make peace and reclaim their separate professional roles if we want to build cities that are suitable for humans.

Till we find a way to do this, we will be held hostage to the greed of builders and contractors whose primary objective will be to build to make money, and not homes.