Ethics and Technology

Soon after the completion of a multi-storeyed building called Akashdeep in Bombay, the whole construction collapsed. The engineers said that the reason for its collapse was that less cement had been used than specified by safety regulations.

In another statement the director of a technical institute said, “RCC construction is a scientific process which is excellent in the hands of qualified and experienced people, but dangerous if managed by incompetent engineers and contractors.” The Times of India, 4 September, 1983)

This appears to be the correct and proper explanation of the matter, but if we really think about the word ‘incompetent’ as applied to the engineers and contractors concerned, we realize that it needs to be replaced by the more appropriate word ‘corrupt’. The truth is that such problems in this country are traceable to excessive greed and corruption, and not to a lack of technical expertise.

The Bhakra Dam being a major government project, the services of the top engineers were obtained for its construction. But, no sooner was it ready than its walls began to crack, costing the government crores of rupees to rebuild.

Such events are frequent in this country. Despite all such ventures being supervised by technical experts, one hears of roads falling into disrepair the moment they are constructed, of buildings needing to be repaired almost immediately after being built, and of plans remaining incomplete even after projects are ‘completed.’ All this is the result of corruption and has nothing to do with a lack of technical expertise.

Corruption is a psychological evil, while lack of skill is a technical shortcoming. A psychological evil cannot be removed by technical improvement. If we are genuinely interested in making a better society in our country, we shall have to work for the psychological, or moral reform of the individuals who comprise the nation. Merely bringing about an increase in the number of technical courses available will not make them turn over a new leaf.