Internship at FDR: My fight to right the wrongs in society
It was March 2015. Arnab Goswami, a well-known media personality, was grilling the panelists about the Nirbhaya case on his show. It was one of his loudest and most furious debates; it had a lasting impact on me and ignited in me a spark to be a responsible citizen. I was furious with what’s wrong in our society, and so I pledged to do something constructive to fix the system.
I was initially attracted towards Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption and was looking for someone who was doing similar work along those lines. After a thorough research, I found about Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan; he was one of India’s highly performing IAS Officer but quit his job to fix the much rotten political space in our country. He was the lone voice of sanity in the entire Telugu political scene and had been fighting for decades to fix the system. It was then that I decided to work with him. It was through an online internship platform that I first came to know that Foundation for Democratic Reforms (FDR) was looking for summer interns; I was thrilled as I wanted that internship opportunity very badly. I submitted my application, and to my delight, my application was shortlisted. I was assigned two tasks – to write an essay on one of the focus areas of the organization and to make a presentation on Gandhian principles. A telephonic interview was also scheduled. I completed the first two tasks successfully. During the telephonic interview, they asked two main questions:-
Q1: Why do you want to work for the organization?
Ans: Foundation for Democratic Reforms (FDR) is a leading think-tank organization, and it is the last stop for public policy research in the country. FDR has made immense contributions in shaping key legislations and policies like National Rural Health Mission, Right to Information Act, Lokpal Bill etc. It would be a wonderful learning experience for any passionate individual who loves to dive in the vast knowledge pool of public policy research that’s going on at FDR, and that’s why I would like to work for the organization.
Q2: What do you recommend to improve the standards of government school education in the country?
Ans: I’d recommend three simple ways:
1. Emphasis on learning: – Most state governments don’t give enough emphasis on learning. Regular assessment of children needs to be done, and self-correcting mechanisms need to be put in place so that children gain actual knowledge.
2. Training for teachers: – A big percentage of teachers are not undergoing any training programs, thus affecting the teaching standard in schools. This has to be fixed in order to improve the standard of education.
3. Infrastructural support: – Basic infrastructural needs like toilets, drinking water, playground, etc. should be provided in all the schools. Digital classrooms should be provided in as many schools as possible to improve the quality of learning.
The telephonic interview went smoothly, and I was selected for a 3-month policy research internship at FDR.
During my 3-month internship, I had the privilege to interact with Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan very closely on numerous occasions. He was very enlightening and down to earth. Interactions with him have broadened my thought process and have left an intrinsic mark on my mind. The nature of work involved day to day policy research, expert interactions, daily news monitoring, documentation, and field visits. At FDR, I researched on Education reforms in India and road ahead for school education in Andhra Pradesh, and Enhancing incomes of farmers in India and conducting a field study on the successful execution of lift irrigation schemes in Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. I was engaged in several other research studies: a preliminary study on ‘steps to reduce fuel adulterations practices in the country’, a study on ‘Gandhian principles’, and a study on ‘people participation strategies deployed to eradicate polio in the country’. I also participated in Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan’s 3-part web lecture series for a postgraduate program in the public policy of Takshashila institution which was conducted in the office premises. We, a group of three interns, went for a field visit to understand the successful implementation of lift irrigation projects in Prakasam district and documented the findings. My field interactions with distressed farmers had moved me to tears which made me even more determined to work for their cause. It also helped me shape better policy recommendations to enhance the farmers’ incomes. The field visit was a life changing experience for me as it taught me the value of water; it gave me an invaluable first-hand experience of various elements that are responsible for a farmer’s distress in the country and the ways to overcome it.
My research project at FDR on issues of school education in Andhra Pradesh has helped me to secure an internship with the State Government of Andhra Pradesh. After this stint, I also worked as a policy research intern at AP Janmabhoomi, an NRI body empowering government schools in Andhra Pradesh with digital classrooms.
Author of the article: Gajjarapu Sri Harsha
This article was published on Internshala.