Internship Experience @ Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), New Delhi: Cheerful Environment, Interesting Work, 3RD PRIZE WINNING ENTRY

Intern Details

Name: Sanghmitra Singh

Name of your College: National Law University, Odisha.

Year of Study: 5th year

Name of the organisation. City. Office Address. How was the office? Team strength:

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Headquarters (CHRI), New Delhi.

It is an independent, non-partisan, international non-governmental organisation, mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in Commonwealth countries.

The CHRI teams are based in three offices in New Delhi, London and Accra, with consultants and partner organisations spread across the world.

New Delhi Office Address: 55A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers

Kalu Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, INDIA

Ph: +91-11-43180200

Fax: +91-11-2686-4688, +91-11-4318-0217

Email:  [email protected]

It’s walking distance from Hauz Khas Metro station (yellow line).

Duration of internship

CHRI requires a minimum of 4 weeks’ internship. I interned there from November 23rd, 2015 – December 24th, 2015.

Application procedure? Internship Contact Details

The application procedure is rather simple.

My friend interned there in the month of May and he spoke to one of the project officers, after which I was asked to submit my CV, a statement of purpose and a legal write-up at [email protected].

Within a few hours, I was replied via e-mail asking me to join The Prison Reform Team on the following Monday. One can also apply directly to the said ID, but at least a month or two before the intended stint.

Timings

5 days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. One might be asked to work on Saturdays, but that’s pretty rare. Also, they made sure I never stayed beyond 7 p.m.

First Day, Formalities, Impression:

I was asked to report by 9:30 a.m.

Since I stayed in Green Park, I took an auto, and I reached within 15 minutes. I was pleased to notice that the office, which is at the third floor, was tidy, with more than sufficient sunlight and ventilation.

It was refreshingly nice to enter such an office, especially compared to those dim, dull corporate offices which are usually located in a basement.

As I sat at the reception, I was greeted by a polite man, who is the Manager Administration of CHRI. He asked me my name and which team I was allotted to. He then told me to wait for the concerned Programme Coordinator.

As I waited for her, whilst reading my copy of Kafka’s Short Stories, I looked around and saw a big, beautiful office where each employee, as well as intern, has a separate work station.

Each desk has neatly stacked files near it, along with individual trashcans and a box of tissues in the vicinity. Now, I am no neat freak, but I had already begun to like the office.

As soon the concerned Coordinator entered, I was introduced to her by the polite Manager Administration. She extended a warm welcome and gave me a brief orientation of the work CHRI does, specifically in respect of the Prison Reforms Team.

She is an extremely soft spoken person and even though she had a meeting within 10 minutes, she patiently explained to me the work of the team which principally focuses on reducing unnecessary detentions through early safeguards like legal aid and effective prison monitoring.

The team’s work included research work, primarily on pre-trial detentions and legal aid, advocating for safer, evaluating efficiency of Prison monitoring systems. She also talked about ‘Jail Mail’, which is akin to a periodical publication pertaining to Prison Reforms Updates, and interns are asked to contribute to that too.

Other teams included – Access to Information, Police Reform, Strategic Initiatives Programme, Media and Communications, and lastly, Planning and Administration.

Thereafter, She asked one of the Project Officers to forward me the ‘Orientation Pack’, as they call it, which was basically a revision on CrPC, coupled with some of CHRI’s publications, which was intended to give me a broader understanding of Prison Reform work.

It was a good first day, as Criminal Law is one of my major interests and by the end of the day, I had revised significant portions of CrPC, RTI, Mulla Committee Report and the guidelines as per the D.K. Basu case [D.K.Basu V. State of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610)].

Main tasks

An intern isn’t usually confined to a specific kind of work. It includes a range of tasks, assigned by different Project Officers, with some specific intended outcomes. They would give clear instructions and you are more than welcomed to approach them with even the silliest of doubts.

They were always patient and kind, no matter how many times you went to them with doubts.

One thing I noticed, is that unlike most offices/ firms/ organisation, you were first explained the bigger picture, so that the intern knew exactly what s/he’s working for, and how her/his work would be helpful for or relevant to their team’s current project.

For instance, if I was given the work of data analysis, which included, among other things, calculating the ratio of Inmates to Prison visits, I was explained that this data will be helpful for future academic studies.

This way, an intern would always be made to feel an important part of the project, and not simply doing work for the sake of the certificate.

Another instance was when I had to determine different states’ extent of statutory compliances in respect of Jail Visits, based on their RTI responses.

Here, I was explained that this would be helpful in making a ‘Report Card’ for each individual state, which would later be sent to the jail authorities of that state.

This would help them realise on their own, where they are lagging behind and what more they can do for the successful implementation of Prison Visiting System.

For a major part of my stint, I was involved in assisting with the organisation of the Roundtable Discussion on ‘Civil Society Participation on Monitoring of Prison’, which was scheduled to be held on December 23rd, 2015.

Since the day was fast approaching, this was considered the top-most priority at that time. However, this did not exempt us from the other tasks – they had to be managed simultaneously.

For the said consultation, I was asked to invite various scholars, lawyers, erstwhile police officials, activists, Criminology professor, journalists, media professionals, and other eminent personalities from states like Gujarat, Rajashthan, Maharashtra, New Delhi, Bangalore.

Most of these people were nice to me on the phone, however, I had some pretty upsetting experience with some of the media persons.

Their personal secretaries blew me off, asked me to call later but then not answer, spoke in a rather rude and curt manner, and sometimes even hung up right on my face. I almost wish I didn’t have to deal with them.

Although, when I think about it now, it did help me make a lot of connections, which I’m usually not comfortable with. I was easily able to approach them in person, during the Consultation, since they already knew who I was, because of those telephonic conversations.

On the day of the consultation, I was expected to make notes on the minutes of the meeting, for future records.

After the personal introduction by each of the participant in the Consultation, even the interns were asked to introduce themselves and what we learnt, at the end of the day. Like I said, you are not just an intern there; you are a part of the team.

If I were to summarize the work that I was entrusted with, it’ll be (amongst other things) as follows:-

  • Assistance in organizing a Regional Round-table on ‘Civil Society Participation in Monitoring of Prisons’ at Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
  • Preparation a detailed note on Inmate-to-Inspection ratio in all states based on the data provided by Prison statistics India, 2014 and its comparison with the statutory mandate.
  • Analysis of statistics of states for Jail Inspection, Vacancies, Budget, Custodial Deaths, Overcrowding, etc.
  • Reviewed the Jail Rules on Prison Visiting System of each state.
  • PPT based on the questionnaire responses of Rajasthan Police Officials on Arrest Practices.

The entire internship had me involved in working with a lot of colourful pie charts, graphs, infographics, PPTs, etc. which was a really nice change, compared to the black-and-white work that one usually does under lawyers or firms.

Here’s a prototype of one infographic that I made. This was basically a report card (scores were to be given later), which was supposed to be made for every state.

Although this wasn’t approved, making this infographic right from scratch, was a lot of fun. If you’re one of those artsy-types, you’ll love doing this kind of work.

Although this wasn’t approved, making this infographic right from scratch, was a lot of fun. If you’re one of those artsy-types, you’ll love doing this kind of work.

Work Environment, People:

This was hands down, the best segment of the internship. Apart from being treated as a member of the organisation, everyone is extremely courteous, helpful, warm, kind and patient.

You can go up to them for any kind of doubt, any number of times, and they’ll explain to you in detail, what they expect out of you. There were times when I got a tad overwhelmed with the work, since I was working on multiple things simultaneously.

It was at that time, when my Project Officer, asked me put off one work for a while and concentrate on finishing up one task at a time, without pressuring myself. They are really accommodating that way.

They’ll also never forget to praise you for your work, either via e-mail or by words. It is only then that one realises the power of appreciation – how extremely encouraging that is and how motivated you feel to work more.

I feel that most offices have seriously underestimated the positive effects appreciation and praises have on an employee and how it actually increases the work efficiency.

The atmosphere is noticeably cheerful and light and you can see people puling each others’ leg all the time. There isn’t really a dull moment.

They will make sure you’ve had your lunch, they’ll make sure you’re able to work in case you’re unwell, and they will never, ever let you stay beyond 7 p.m (that too, on rare occasion).

In fact, they will insist you to have lunch, and leave well within 6:30 p.m. They’ll be extra thankful in case you had to stay late for some work. Like I said – courteous.

Another unique feature was the weekly discussions they had almost every Friday. It could either be a presentation, or someone recalling their experiences if they had attended a seminar or conference say, in Sri Lanka. They’d give the detailed account of each day, including a review of the food and the climate and everything.

This was followed by questions, comments or recommendations, which anybody in the office could pose. There too, I saw that everyone would whole-heartedly compliment on the presentation, right down to the tiniest detail like the icons used, or the font style used.

It would even sometimes lead to a heated discussion or debate, which only added to the fun. Some interesting points were raised and the discussion turned even more engaging.

And oh, cakes! The number of cakes and sweets I’ve had in this internship. They make it a point to celebrate every accomplishment of the employees, and there’ll be cake and sweets and samosas and dhoklas and soft drinks and what not. There simply couldn’t be a better way to end the week.

Towards the end of my internship, it was already Christmas week, and they had a little celebration with (yes!), cake and the Director gave each employee an individual Christmas present. One project manager even got a pair of aviator sunglasses.

I’d never seen such a joyous work environment. In addition to that, every employee in the office got an individual rum or plum cake, which is a Christmas tradition there.

They really do believe in the concept that the happier the employee more is the productivity and work efficiency. I strongly believe that this needs to be incorporated in every office (Not for the cakes, but little praises here and there can go a long way).

Best and Worst things

Like I’ve already emphasised, the best thing was the work environment and the people. It also used to be refreshing to look out the window, and see the sunlight coming in, or the trees swaying with the wind.

It was a nice, 10-second break for me every few hours, unlike working in offices where there weren’t even any windows. Unlimited coffee and tea was also one of the major reliefs.

I couldn’t really find any bad things, except maybe the rude responses I had to face while inviting participants for the conference, but, at the end of it all, that was rather insignificant.

Accommodation etc. What did you to do chill in and around the office and the place of stay?

I stayed in a PG in Green Park (Contact No. – Mr. Ashok: +91 97-11-429005), so travelling was not really a problem. An auto ride took me 10-15 minutes and I used to walk back from the office to the PG.

There were lots of places to eat near the office. There was a whole market behind the office. You’d be spoiled with food choices. The same stands true for Green Park as well – you’d never run out of options to eat. There’s North India, South Indian, Chinese food, just about everything, at student-friendly rates.

I also availed the option of ordering online at www.millionkitchen.com. It delivers a great variety of food everywhere in the NCR region; all you need to do is enter your zip code and click on the food you’d like to order. It’s not overly expensive, either.

More surprises on the last day of internship

On the last day of my internship, each and every member of my team came up to me and congratulated me for the good work I’d done.

They even gave me a CHRI coffee mug as a present, with a nice, congratulatory message on the box [Merry Christmas, indeed!]. I could barely hide my delight. Everybody hugged and gave each other best wishes before parting for Christmas break.

All in all – a wonderful internship which was both relaxing and interesting (and hence, highly productive).

Since I like to experiment, it was a refreshing change to work in a completely different and cheerful environment. And because the work was interesting, I didn’t mind staying late.

I really liked not being buried in a file or practically spending my entire day on Manupatra. I sincerely felt a part of something meaningful.

It was in fact, the first time when I looked forward to going to the office instead of having to drag myself out of the bed every morning. Like they say, it’s not really work if you enjoy doing it. So yes, I’d say it was my best internship so far.

This entry has been submitted for the LexisNexis-Lawctopus Internship Experience Writing Competition 2015-2016. iPleaders is the learning partner for this competition.

The entry has won the 3rd prize in the competition!

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