Internship Experience @ Janaagraha Center for Citizenship and Democracy, Bengaluru.

Intern Details

Name: Tejas Rao

Name of Institution: Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar (GNLU)

Year of Study: I

Introduction:

My name is Tejas Rao and I’m currently a 1st Year at the Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), Gandhinagar. Over the winter break, I completed my Internship with Janaagraha Center for Citizenship and Democracy, Bengaluru. I interned for a total duration of 4 weeks, from 9th November 2015 to 5th December 2015.

I’m generally a very enthusiastic person, and get pretty anxious close to deadline day. To avoid stress with the entire application process, I decided to ask my seniors about the internship & apply well in advance.

This would ensure I got the internship I wanted to do, and eliminate workload for later. I heard a pretty favorable review from a 2nd year, and with one glance at the website, I was sold. Janaagraha was the place I wanted to go.

My mother asked, specifically that I intern in Bangalore (my hometown) till I get to second year, so location wise, I didn’t have much to worry about. I applied in mid-August, about 3 months in advance.

Applying:

The application process was pretty straightforward. Although they did mess up a little. I called up the office (+918040790400) and was asked to send an e-mail to Mr. Kishor Kumar (HR Department – [email protected]) and [email protected].

I sent them a covering letter & my Curriculum Vitae, but was then asked to apply using a portal they have established specifically for this purpose – volunteer.janaagraha.org, which I found extremely professional.

It did take more time, but the portal shows you their commitment to volunteers and interns – we are treated on par with employees (barring ID cards).

On the portal, there is a form where you fill up personal information, you upload your CV and choose the program you want to work with. Janaagraha accepts interns for a variety of their operations – Jana Online, Bala Janaagraha and ASICS to name a few.

More information about their work is available on the website (janaagraha.org), a thorough reading of which is advisable, prior to applying.

I chose to work with the I Paid a Bribe initiative (ipaidabribe.com), because the idea of retail corruption was something that really appealed to me.

Within a few days, I received a call from Mr. Rajat Mukherjee, who patiently explained the departments they had and the sort of work they did. Once I affirmed my interest, he requested me to send him a guided research sample (on Retail Corruption), which he briefed me on.

He also asked for a Statement of Purpose, on why I was a suitable candidate for their work, and another writing sample from any college related work.

I was given one week to reply to the same. I made the mistake of applying during my mid-semester exams, which meant I had a lot of work to do, so ensure that you’re relatively free when you apply to work here.

I found the Statement of Purpose easy to write because I typed notes on Word as he spoke – the conversation lasted nearly 45 minutes.

Pro-Tip: Apply when you’re relatively free and Take notes during ANY conversation with the office.

About a week after sending him the necessary documents, I received an e-mail from Mr. Mukherjee confirming the dates of my internship. I sent them a follow-up 2 weeks before my joining date and was asked to be at the office at 10 AM on my first day.

First Day Formalities:

I turned up at the office by 9:45 AM. Janaagraha operates on all floors of the UNI Building (History enthusiasts, the plaques on the building may be of interest), and the 4th floor houses their admin staff. After logging in with the security (something to be done daily), I gave Mr. Mukherjee a call.

He told me to fill up the forms HR handed me, and set-up ICT. I would have to wait for an hour till he came.

The HR forms are pretty standard. They also ask you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, something I took time out to read (purely out of fascination). The IT Manager gave me my log-in details for the Wi-Fi, and explained that it was restricted.

With a stern face, he explained that unless I worked with the Social Media team, there was no access to Facebook, YouTube, any streaming media, or Torrents.

I had carried my laptop on the first day, and he installed Avast on my PC because I didn’t have an anti-virus. It is recommended and convenient to carry a laptop of your own, although they do have workstations/PC’s which can be utilized.

First Impressions of Work:

Once Mr. Mukherjee arrived, he called me and all the other interns (there were 4 others, completing their last week), to a meeting room. This was their weekly update meeting, and I was to learn on the job.

Through their discussion, I was informed that my tasks would be to write a research paper on anything related to retail corruption, apart from daily work, relating to the IPAB initiative that I would be given. In addition to this, each intern is handed a Government Department to work on, for process analysis.

I was also informed that there was no dress code (Smart, Decent Work Wear being the norm), and that working hours are 10 AM – 5/6PM, including 2 Saturdays. During work, we would get a 1 hour break for lunch, usually taken between 1 and 2.

The IPAB team is housed on the same floor as the Jana Online team – a total of 30 people on the same floor. Everyone is given a desk, with easy access to plug points.

I assumed that the work culture would be really serious. I had a misconception that NGO’s comprised largely of employees who were very focused on the cause they were working for, and did a lot of serious e-mail drafting (like those Change.org petitions).

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Janaagraha has some of the finest, most vibrant personalities working for them. On my first day, I heard a cacophony of sound and chatter throughout the office. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t serious about their work.

Most conversation is work-related, although as an extension to the same, I heard snippets relating to vacations, family life, football and spirituality. Such conversations are used as stress-busters.

Instructions are yelled across the floor.

The noise made me happy to be there. It took away from the monotony of focusing on research and data. In short, I loved it. Everybody minds their own business, and no one will stop you from plugging in your earphones if you find the chatter distracting.

An added perk was the delicious coffee, served twice a day, by a smiling, helpful employee. Tea and other variants are also available.

I had packed lunch from home, but for people who don’t carry food, Cunningham Road and Vasanthnagar have A LOT of places to eat at. Starting with Alliance Francaise across the road (which serves as the dining area for everyone), to McDonalds/Subway at Sigma Mall and a myriad of small eateries – it’s amazing.

After lunch, I headed back to the office, finished up work, and got drenched in rain on the way home. Bangalore weather is moody. As is the traffic. It took me 3 hours to get home that night. My Uber driver decided to stop at multiple points and create 3 trips, to get his bonus for the day.

Quite sad. Pro-Tip: Check the weather forecast, and Google Maps before leaving home.

General Experience:

Pretty awesome. My boss, Mr. Mukherjee was absolutely amazing. He had phenomenal knowledge of everything related to retail corruption, was extremely well-read, approachable and easy to connect with.

He’s a graduate in Law himself, and does sympathize with first-year tales, especially those about moot court competitions.

His ring-tone was the Game of Thrones theme, which I loved. He was also pretty cool with being called by his first name, without a Sir, but I stuck to it out of courtesy. What I loved most was the way he interacted with us interns.

There were 5 of us in total – a batchmate from GNLU, and others from NUALS, NLU-O and NALSAR, and we were assigned work in rotation.

This ensured none of us were over, or under burdened. The work-load was perfect, and breaks to check on football scores or read blogs were taken whenever needed.

My co-interns helped me love the place even more, discussing things from movies (Star Wars was a common thread) to bad jokes and internet fads. We always ate together, and once even went out to Pizza Stop, an extremely cheap pizza joint, which is definitely recommended.

Apart from the people, the work I was allotted was excellent. The freedom in writing your research is unparalleled. Rajat sir doesn’t impose upon you, but asks for frequent updates, and steers you in the right direction. Although he was away from the office, he stayed in touch via phone and responded to e-mails, which was extremely helpful.

I was also fortunate in that I got to interact with the ex-DGP, Dr. S T Ramesh and the ex-Chief Secretary, Dr. Malati Das, who were such inspiring people.

Apart from work talk, they enthralled us with tales from their days in service, and did take an interest in discussing our opinions and insight. Although I was shy to speak at first, my confidence grew with every interaction – they were welcoming of dissent, and really involved us in discussions.

There is also fair amount of data management expected from you. A good command over Microsoft Excel is definitely something you pick up at the end of the internship, as you analyze the data you receive on the website.

Janaagraha also developed the Swachch Delhi Application, and I was lucky enough to be there when that was launched – there were sweets in the office, distributed to everyone.

Often, people across teams will assign you tasks apart from the main ones you’re doing. Some people might be irritated with this, but I took on the work anyway, as I believed it would add to my learning.

The work culture is outstanding. On Fridays, our floor had TED styled discussions, where an employee would project a video of some kind, and we would discuss the values that video represented – something that bonded the entire team together.

It was also fascinating to see the work the employees did, from making videos about life at the office (see this video – I star in this!), to creating content for outreach program.

For Non-Localites:

Bangalore’s a pretty massive city. I’m a localite who lives in Whitefield, so getting to the office in Vasanthnagar required a MINIMUM of 90 minutes. After day one, I opted to stay with my aunt & uncle in Jayanagar to minimize travel time. Here’s some information which can help you:

The office is located in the heart of old Bangalore, just off Cunningham Road. If you’re coming from out of station, there are lots of cheap PG’s and Hostels available around Vasanthnagar – near Mount Carmel’s’ College & near Christ University.

You can also find PG’s near Kumara Park (West). A quick Google search will help you there – some examples are Ashok Paying Guest House (+918023560452). Most Bangaloreans know Hindi, so language isn’t too much of a barrier. Some PG’s will also offer meals & Wi-Fi – try bargaining with them.

If they don’t, never fear. Bangalore is popular for gaadi dosa, and food is never too far away.  Swiggy, Zomato and FreshMenu will deliver for sure.

I don’t drink, but the pub culture in Bangalore is pretty swell. Some of my co-interns did enjoy themselves. Try to intern till the second week of December, it will allow you to experience Bacardi Weekender, which an amazing music festival.

Traveling to the office isn’t a hassle at all, and Google Maps will help.

From any of the PG localities mentioned above, a bus stop is less than 15 minutes away, and there are direct buses plying to Shivajinagar Bus Depot (roughly 7-10 minutes from the office) and C.S.I. Hospital (about 5 minutes away). An auto is advisable for the first few days.

It will cost you a maximum of Rs. 100 from any part of town (except Whitefield).

Drop me a message if you need more help with the same.

Conclusions:

My 4 weeks went by like a blur. My boss was extremely accommodative, and even allowed me to leave early one Friday, owing to a commitment I had.

There’s absolutely nothing negative about the place. The office is clean, the employees are welcoming, and the office is located in a nostalgic part of the city.

Within a week of completing my internship, I received a feedback form via e-mail, which once filled, led to the delivery of my certificate (as a digital copy). I didn’t have to follow up even once – unlike my other batch-mates.

Perfect first internship, in my experience. An amazing work atmosphere, good amounts of work, and good co-interns (almost guaranteed, because they have interns the year round). The research work you do is taken seriously, and good research can get published as a commentary piece on the I Paid a Bribe website.

There is no stipend, which is a bit sad in a pricey city like Bangalore, but I never expected one. The amount of experience and the marvelous insight I gained into Policy Analysis is something that makes up for that, two-fold.

Definitely recommended, would volunteer for longer if I could have.

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

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