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"I can't afford an internship." : A take on Unpaid Internships in India
Arguably the most important part of a student's CV.
Internships in India are hard to get in spite of there being so many law firms, companies, NGOs, LPOs and other such organisations. An internship at a 'reputed' place is like a star on the CV. If you have 5 or more stars then you either have a CGPA worth killing for or are an awesome jugaadu.
Whatever be the reason, I can safely say that internships are very very important. Not just from the CV point of view. Also from the experience of the practical experience of a specific field.
In India, majority of the internships are unpaid.
So, students get: cut throat competition, shady PGs to stay in, work during vacations, time away from parents and home city, rigorous office hours and NO PAY.
Organisations get: FREE labor, temporary clerks/secretaries and no responsibility.
A majority of the students are not from the metros but most of the internship places are in metros. It means, students have to spend money on travelling to the city, accommodation, food, travelling to the office and other misc expenses. All this and what do we get in return? Experience? Knowledge? Chance to get coffee for the boss? Chance to pass around files? Old cases to read?
Just because interns are not 'workers' and do not have a union of sorts, organisations feel that they can exploit them. Interns are not given enough importance. They are students who are facing a lot of difficulty and trying to learn and sustain themselves. The least organisations can do is dedicate an hour a day to actually teach them something and pay them something which can offset their expenses for that time duration.
LegallyIndia pays its interns Rs. 10k/month. It is seen as a very 'handsome' amount. Considering what other organisations in India pay (or don't pay), yes but not quite handsome when you consider the expenses of staying in Bombay for a month. It just covers all expenses which in the present Indian scenario is a very big thing.
I have heard interns being paid Rs. 2k for a 6 week internship in Delhi. Yea, 2k might just cover food expenses for that time. So effectively, the intern is spending money to do free work.
I can understand non-profits not paying their interns. Although its not completely alright, but its understandable. They have their own fund raising problems. But firms/companies who work for profit should pay their interns.
It doesn't matter if you get work done from the intern or not. You are calling him/her to your office and he/she is incurring expenses because of you. You have all the right to get work done from them. Make them do substantial work so that they can actually learn and contribute and rightfully earn their stipend.
There are always things that interns can do. Maybe not a first year or a second year student but definitely from third year onwards students are well trained and can surely reduce some work load of the employees. They deserve to be paid.
Unfortunately, interns fall into the unorganised category of the free labour sector.
A lot needs to change. Some organisations are starting to understand this. A lot more are still not sensitive enough to understand this problem. Not paying interns is not illegal but in my view, it is unethical.
There are so many brilliant students out there who are willing to work for 12 hours a day but are unable to do so because they cannot afford an internship. Pay your interns. Make them work. They'll contribute to your organisation in a small way. They will spread the word if you treat them well.
A student looking for an internship in Delhi for May-June2012.
This article is also published on my personal blog here.
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