New course at institute aims to draw local talent to boost its project

Aspiring engineers no longer need to put in long years of service at some obscure site before being called to work on a prestigious urban infrastructure project, nor do they need to depend on a Facebook page to suggest improvements in the hope someone will take notice.

The postgraduate diploma programme in Metro Rail Technology and Management being offered by IIT- Madras in association with Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) is likely to become a big hit with students. This is the second year the course is being offered at the institution. IIT-Delhi has been offering such a course for a few years now.

Sale of applications for the course has already started, and the total number of seats, which was 10 last year, is expected to increase. The catch here is that selected candidates, before joining the course, will have to execute a bond of Rs. 5 lakh to serve CMRL for four years, inclusive of the course period of about one year.

The trainees, after successfully completing the course, will be inducted to CMRL as assistant managers. Those who fail to complete the course will not be inducted and will have to pay a bond amount of Rs.5 lakh towards the training cost. Even successful students, who do not join the company within 10 days of completion of the course, will end up forfeiting the sum.

Aspirants and even students of the first batch that is set to graduate this July seem fine with the conditions. Ashwin Vishnu, who is presently undergoing the course, said its main highlight is the Metro Systems Engineering, which offers extensive details about the ongoing project in Chennai. “I was just an electronics engineer before I came here, but the course gave me a feel of all streams, including management, legal issues, planning and control strategies,” he said.

Another student, who did not wish to be named, said the course provided an excellent opportunity for graduates, especially those who do not belong to top-notch engineering institutions, to work in the area of urban planning. “There are no doubts about landing the right job. There is an underground rail in almost all big cities in the world, which makes the curriculum very relevant. The bond is not a burden for us because an experience of three years is anyway needed to shift to another company,” he said.

The civil engineering department at IIT- Madras is anchoring the programme with assistance from five other departments. Only graduates in civil, mechanical, electrical and electronics and communication engineering, with an aggregate of 70 per cent in their graduation, are eligible for the CMRL course. They will be shortlisted on the basis of GATE scores and their interviews will be conducted by CMRL officials and IIT professors.

Last year, former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation managing director E. Sreedharan had written to the HRD ministry, seeking assistance in creating engineers with specialised skills needed for metro rail projects and in convincing all IITs to start such programmes.

K. Ramamurthy, dean (academic courses), IIT-Madras, said the course would be spread over four semesters that will include thesis work. “The students will get to learn how different metro rail technology is — from its construction features, procedures to float tenders, details of letting out contracts, signalling methods, safety and quality management,” he said.

Hyderabad Metro Rail has already approached IIT-Madras for engineers for the upcoming facility in that city. “Besides Bangalore, Kochi, Hyderabad and Chennai, there will be many smaller cities which will soon start demanding metro rail facilities, making the course more relevant in the years to come,” said Prof. Ramamurthy. User-defined courses seem to be the vogue these days with IIT- Madras offering almost 600 industry-related courses, the oldest being on construction that is customised to L&T's requirements.

CMRL officials too are excited about the course, which they feel will go a long way in helping them overcome the shortage of skilled engineers for the 45-km long project.

As for the bond, a senior official said: “We are spending over Rs 5 lakh on a student and also paying IIT for tuitions and sponsorships. We would not want the investment to go waste. Also, this will ensure that only those who are interested apply.”