Introduction | Parth J Shah

Introduction

Parth J Shah

After the success of the first CCS research internship on informal housing in the summer of 2000, I knew that we had a program that would provide a greatly valued and needed learning experience to students. Experience not only in real-life application of liberal principles but also in teaching them the skills of research, analysis, and writing. It would also enable the Centre to conduct studies into areas that required collection of first-hand information and data, which can be done best by enthusiastic, energetic, and dedicated youngsters.

The experience of the first internship program made it clear that we needed to provide a stipend to interns to cover the costs of travel, lunch, xeroxing. And that we needed a larger space than the CCS office and at least a couple of extra computers for interns to work efficiently.

Sir Ratan Tata Trust accepted our proposal for payment of stipend to research interns and for reimbursement of research-related expenses. And my dear friends and Centre supporters Shalini and Rakesh Wadhwa offered their spacious, well-appointed office for the summer. The office was centrally air-conditioned! The CCS team and all the interns happily called it their home during the hot summer months (May-July). A grant from Kanwal Rekhi bought two new computers. Thanks to the generosity and timely help by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Kanwal Rekhi, and the Wadhwas, we were all prepared for the CCS Research Internship 2001.

From among the applicants, six from India (Danish Faruqui, Aditi Kavarana, Nandita Markandan, H B Soumya, Raghav Sud, and Mayank Wadhwa) and one each from Germany (Carsten Joerges) and the United States (Jennifer Ifft) were selected. After email exchanges with the chosen ones, I prepared two lists of research projects. Each intern had to select one project from each list and choose, if desired, a partner for each of the two projects. Yazad Jal of the Centre handled accounting and administrative work of the internship.

One was list of short-term projects focusing on licensing procedures for entry-level professions (License & Livelihood), application process for various government certificates needed by a typical family (Birth to Death Certificates), and costs of completely unnecessary agencies and departments of the Delhi government (Bureaucrush). Here interns had to visit government offices, deal with bureaucrats, and go through the procedure for the license or the certificate. They researched licensing to open a barber shop, purchase and operate an autorickshaw, start a private school, and sell liquor in the city of Delhi, and the procedure to acquire a ration card. Delhi Textbook Bureau (DTB) was established to print and distribute textbooks to government schools at subsidized rate. Despite numerous trips to the DTB and presentations to the concerned ministries, Aditi and Soumya could not get the accounts to assess costs and benefits of the Bureau. The battle shall continue!

The second list identified several areas for a longer-term research requiring a great deal of reading and secondary data collection. The interns worked on the history and methods of privatizing public sector units, comparative study of the pension system in Chile, China, Singapore, and India, Equal Remuneration Act, workplace safety regulations, pros and cons of Bt Cotton, restrictions on the movement and marketing of agricultural products, government crop insurance schemes, and Kisan Credit Card. The table of contents gives all the details.

Kunal Datt joined the internship program after the summer (and he is still working at the Centre). He expanded on the Bt Cotton controversy and his paper is included in this volume. After all the research was done, reports were written-up, Soumya spent countless hours editing them all for this volume. Bhuvana Anand's, Sujatha Muthayya's, and Manali Shah’s equally long hours formulated the papers to keep some uniformity. All of them have tried to keep the individuality of each paper intact, their red pens in control. If you don’t believe me, please read the papers yourself.

January 2002