About Author: Anurag Kundu, a 4th year B.Tech (Computer Science) student from NIT Kurukshetra interned with Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy in Public Affairs as a Research Analyst. His experience will inspire you to pursue internship in an area other than your field of study.
I have always aspired to join public affairs. But for that, understanding the issues and depths hidden in terms like governance, democracy, community participation, citizenry and policy was pivotal. So, here I landed in a city of IT wizards, not for a technical internship that my Institute wants me to, but to pursue what I like the most.
I remember my first day. A nervous, puzzled young boy with a bag walked in to ask who Shruthi was. I was asked to wait as she had not come yet. All I could do was to wait which I did but not without my nervousness growing with each passing second as the number of questions raising their heads in my tiny head kept increasing. Have I taken a right decision by coming to Bangalore? Should I have taken a technical internship instead? How will these people treat me? Will I be a disappointment to them? At one point, I could literally hear the questions aloud. And suddenly, somebody came calling my name introducing herself as Shruthi. And soon I started to relax as I found the atmosphere very conducive and the people chilled out and cooperative.
The Lunch first day helped me understand further the people around me. Soon, I was told that I would be working on Urban Governance Index with Sudeep and Meera. I started to enjoy my work. I was lucky that I had two pretty chilled out, cooperative and understanding people guiding me through it. They gave me reviews so that I could improve. But then, there came a time, when I started to ask myself some questions. What am I doing? All I do is to sit in front of computer and pull some data. How will it help me? Am I wasting my time? Is it worth it? But then, I started to connect the dots. I could now see the big picture. That made me happy and gave me more confidence and enthusiasm. I could now see the role of finding out the number of hours commuters spend stuck in traffic jams in the making of an efficient transport policy. Or the importance of the having an auditing agency to bring about what Amartya Sen calls protective security, an instrumental freedom. More than the final data, I enjoyed the process. My understanding of governance has improved considerably. The project has given me a good insight about the real deficiencies that plague us and our government and trust me, these are very different from the ones that we see from the surface. This is where I realized that only the imaginary problems are insurmountable; real ones surely are.
We even had a field visit of Jaago Re program. Santhosh was simply brilliant and so was his team. He showed a picture which was completely alien to me. The error in voting list, I had never realized before, could be such a hindrance in the exercise of democracy. I have always been apprehensive about the devolution of power to local bodies. According to my view (which I no longer subscribe to) it is very easy for vested interests to creep in into the local bodies. I loathe caste system and that is what made me skeptical. It is here at Janaagraha that I realized that the advantages of having responsible, accountable, capable local bodies outweigh and outnumber the disadvantages. Last year, I tried going through the Union Budget. It was horrifying as I could not understand a thing. I decided not to touch the budget again ever. But the time always has something worse to offer. Janaagraha made me work on BBMP Budget. Although, my role was mainly to do the data entry (I will never forgive BBMP people for it. Why could they not provide soft copy?) , verification, and classify proposals as work or non-work. But I was listening to every conversation around me. I listened carefully whenever Sudeep and Srikanth spoke. Sometimes, even overhearing them (I know, you will not like it). All this gave me confidence to pick up the Union Budget once again, even if I was unsuccessful yet again.
The road experience was something great as well scary. The road experience here means the fun of lying on road while the vehicles pass at distance of 1 feet from you head (The stunt was performed by an expert. Children are advised not to imitate). The readers must not conclude that Janaagraha made me do this adventure. It’s just that I met with the accident. Time just flies and I am writing all this when I am nearly done with my period (pun not intended). Each day I worked here, made me feel proud to be associated with Janaagraha. And as I go, I am taking away that pride with me and a greater urge to join public affairs.
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