Internship Experience @ Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group [CAG, Chennai]: Great Work, No Stipend

Name. College. Year of Study.

Sella Visalakshi, School of Law, SASTRA University, Thanjavur. 3rd year.

Name of the organisation. City.

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group CAG, Adyar, Chennai

Duration of the internship.

4 weeks

About the organization.

CAG is a non-profit, non-religious, non-political organization that aims to promote consumer interests, protect consumer rights , work towards better governance and seek improvement in the areas of public utilities, environment, public health. Most of all, CAG propagates the effective use of the available legal processes to remedy public grievances.

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group. Image taken from http://www.cag.org.in/sites/default/files/logo.png

Application Procedure.

The application procedure is quite simple. All you have to do is send in a mail to [email protected] with your CV and a basic cover letter explaining why you want to intern at CAG.

It is also advisable to follow it up with a call to their office and one Ms. Saroja , the key person at the office will tell you to come in person to confirm the internship.

She just asked me a few basic questions and details and handed me a brochure about the organization.

Read more about the organization HERE.

The office. The people.

The office is located in Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar  and it is a small yet comfortable one.

Interns are usually given separate desks with a PC, but that usually depends on the number of interns.

I interned during the summer of 2012 and at that time the team comprised of 3 people- Ms. Saroja, who co-ordinates the legal wing and is the face of CAG at many important policy discussions and also writes a column ‘Caveat Emptor‘ in the Metro Plus (The Hindu supplement).

The other two people were Ms. Amudha, Secretary and Ms. Nikitha who works on the energy sector– looking at Energy conservation, sustainable consumption and on Electricity Governance.

Duration in weeks. No. of days/week. Timings

I interned with CAG for a period of 30 days , from June 4th 2011 to July 14th 2011.

It was usually 6 days a week from morning 9.00 am to evening 6:00 pm.

Work does not extend beyond 6:15 ! Some Saturdays were off but they were pretty strict about adhering to the timings( so never be late ,they get really pised!)

Accommodation

I am from Chennai so accommodation wasn’t really an issue for me!

However, the Adyar locality has some good PG options for both boys and girls and compared to most other areas, it is a very safe one and it is well connected to the rest of the city.

When you  walk out of the office , onto the main road, there are a number of bus stops and plenty of restaurants as well.

The PG’s start from Rs 3,500 and most of them are fully furnished and provide food and other basic facilities like laundry.

First impression. First day,etc.

Since I had already been to the office earlier to confirm my internship there were no formalities as such on the first day.

I was introduced to the people at the office and Ms. Saroja gave me a briefing about the kind of work that I could expect the   over the next one month and also gave me an orientation on the functioning and the causes taken up by the NGO.

I took up this internship after completing my first year and had no clue about the COPRA Act  back then and was asked to go through the definitions and meaning of certain words in the Act.

Main tasks.

As an intern at CAG you get  wide-ranging work – right from updating the complaints registry to handling consumer complaints and summarizing judgements.

For the inital few days I was asked to thorough myself with the Consumer Protection Act and also read through the articles written by Ms.Saroja for the ” Caveat Emptor” column I had earlier mentioned.

The main task given to me was to draft letters to brands and companies on behalf of the Consumers who have a problem with the product of a particular provider of services or goods and they are particular about the quality of these letters.

They will have to be to be simple, accurate and crisp.

One interesting task assigned to me was to read up the Motor Vehicles act, note down the requirements for a number plate and to take pictures of number plates on vehicles around the city and check if they comply with the requirements.

This assignment helped me realize that there were number plates of all sizes and shapes , painted with all colours and most of them do not adhere to the standards mentioned! I must admit that taking pictures of faulty number plates in the middle of main roads was fun!

Handling consumer complaints was a great learning experience.

Interns were asked to talk to the consumers over phone and explain the status of their complaint and simultaneously we had to draft letters to the companies as well.

I had two co-interns with me and at times we were asked to work together. Two of us summarized the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act of 1919.

Ms. Saroja may ask your opinions and suggestions for certain complaints and also suggestions for topics for the ”Caveat Emptor ” column. (coming up with topics was challenging since the column has already covered numerous ones!)

The most interesting piece of work given to me was to make a power point presentation on consumer privacy and the privacy bill and the unfair practices in the telecom sector that neglect the privacy of a consumer.Over the one  month I regularly went through the Consumer Protection Journal (CPJ) and summarized judgements of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum and the various State Forums as well.

Most judgements relating to medical negligence were exceptional and the amount of composition declared were also huge. I wrote a few articles on Unfair practices by Matrix Cellular (the international sim company ) and on the practice of overbooking by airline companies.

Other than this I also had to  do some basic research on some Government agencies and the RTI Act as well.

Ms.Saroja asked me to find out if all agencies of the Tamil Nadu government have SMS facilities to make complaints.

This was an interesting task and was an eye-opener to  the inefficiency of Government agencies.

Work environment. People.

Mornings are generally relaxed and towards the afternoon the work starts getting tough. However , on one or two rare occasions, I did not have much work the entire day.

The people are extremely friend and Ms.Saroja is a very approachable person.

They usually give us a deadline and give us the freedom to work until the deadline without questioning us.During lunch you could interact with your co-interns. (you will have to take your own lunch or get out and grab a quick lunch!)

Good things.

It is a small place and even if you do have co-interns you will have only a maximum of three! Hence there is no day that you will sit without any work and moreover the division of work is balanced.

The work experience was first-class and so was the nature of work.

The fact that they give us the opportunity to be creative and also take in our suggestions is highly motivating.

Even though I was quite whiny at the beginning of the internship due to the strict adherence to the timings, eventually I realized that for all the learning, being on time in the morning shouldn’t be a problem.

Another plus for the coffee that was served twice a day !:)

Bad things.

At times doing work like updating the registry of the organisation and tabulating details was monotonous.

Also, since my co-interns finished before me I did get bored towards the end of my internship.

The members of the team are friendly and interactive but not as much as you would want them to be.

Other than this , there weren’t any major drawbacks as such.

Stipend.

No stipend policy is practiced at CAG.

Lessons learnt.

Well, over the one month with CAG, the best lesson learnt was that Consumer is always the king! Also, personally I learnt the sense of time discipline and the art of handling consumers with patience.

Also good quality of work is expected (since we are law students and all that :P) and hence I realized that one will have to live up to that!

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