Even as you near the end of your college years, you may have started to observe the problems around you. It could be as basic as the daily commute to college and back, the burgeoning traffic and increasing levels of pollution.
These problems, now found in every city point to a basic need – the need of urban planning and development. That is the only way to deal with the perpetual congestion in cities, decline in the quality of life and overall Rapid Expanding Urbanisation. The need is, therefore to turn Urban Challenge into an Opportunity.
Internship in Niti Aayog:
We spoke to Madhur Kukreja, a student at School of Planning and Architecture (New Delhi) who has been researching on these issues and more; both as a student of Urban and Regional Planning, Transportation Planning as well as an intern with the NITI Aayog. Here are a few excerpts from our chat with him –
Tell us a bit about your academic background.
I did my Bachelor of Planning from School of Architecture and Planning Bhopal. Currently, I am pursuing Master of Planning with specialisation in Transport Planning from School of Architecture and Planning, New Delhi.
How did you get the internship at NITI Aayog and what was the process of getting the internship?
I did the internship in December 2016 for a period of 6 weeks. Although it is not mandatory to do an internship during Master’s Program at SPA, I was keen to utilise my time on exploring the practical application of transport and mobility theories in doing something impactful. The grand scale of NITI Aayog and the ambitious mission of the institution on being the transformation agent for a new India captivated my mind and compelled me to work with them.
NITI Aayog calls for government internship applications every month from 1st to 10th on their website; I applied through the portal with the details of my academic performance and my preference of the specific department. I chose to work with the transport department, under infrastructure vertical and based upon the merit, thanks to my academic background (Madhur is a double gold medalist during his Bachelors), I was selected. There was no one on one interview for an internship and the selection takes place solely on the basis of merit.
What did you do as a part of your internship with NITI Aayog?
NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) is the erstwhile Planning Commission and has several verticals, which are further subdivided into respective departments which align themselves with the ministries of the Government of India. I chose to work with the Infrastructure vertical of the Transport Department. Every department is headed by an Advisor who is at the rank of the Joint Secretary. As interns, we reported to the Deputy Advisor, who mentored us with the topic selection, data collection, and research tools.
NITI Aayog, being a think tank of the Government of India has the primary responsibility of doing the project appraisal, research and recommend new technologies and processes to the Centre and the states. They usually have a list of topics identified, which they assign to interns for research. For example, in transport, there were topics like the application of Modelling in Transport, Use of Intelligent Transport system, Impact of GST on mobility. Since NITI Aayog thrives on the culture of openness and fresh ideas, interns are free to explore topics other than the ones chosen by them after getting the approved by the concerned person.
My main task in internship was to research and recommend scalable solutions for Last Mile Connectivity in Higher Socio Economic Category Localities; a case study of Greater Kailash. The topic was borne out the data points which suggested declining share of public transport in Delhi despite the success of Delhi Metro. The ridership trends indicated the sobering state of last mile connectivity and that being a hindrance in the promotion of public transport.
The ultimate outcome of it was the set of short term and long term measures like more choice of last mile options, linkage of the quality of service with a willingness to pay, walkability improvement measures etc. which need to be taken in order to enhance the public transport. Being a valuable piece of research for policy making, it was well appreciated as well and in fact, I got an offer for a summer internship to research on using air transportation for urban mobility.
What were your major takeaways and positive experiences during the internship?
The NITI Aayog internship has been a tremendous learning experience and there are several positive things I can look back upon–
Scale of Government Vision:
I got a rich exposure to the Government working at the NITI Aayog and various ministries. One would be inspired by the kind of professional culture at NITI Aayog.
The breadth of scale and long term thinking at which the national policies are based and to be not just at the centre of that activity, but be a part of it is a captivating and enriching experience in itself.
I got a chance to attend an international conference on mobility!
Attending workshops, seminars and meetings all gave me a chance to learn from the experts in the field, I don’t think any other internship can parallel this experience.
Work which adds value:
My presentation was a high point of the internship. The Chief of Delhi metro was invited to my presentation and so were the transport department officials. Most interns get this exposure where they can directly present to the policy makers. It is a chance to be heard and some projects even get implemented!
Ideas Factory: The entire
The entire organisation is extremely professional and open to suggestions. There is a general open door policy and you can discuss issues with any team members. If you wish, you can even research in remote areas in India and the organisation will support you by providing resources. A lot of independence is given, this is the place you work for if you wish to create large scale impact.
What are the challenges you faced during the internship?
The biggest challenge that students, especially engineer and those with a technical background face, is that we tend to miss the bigger picture in our thoughts and ideas. We tend to think of micro level issues of the problem a lot more than the holistic macro impact of society through them. NITI Aayog, being an institution of national scale has to think at a huge scale and interns normally have to adjust their imaginations to think and plan for long term and for large scale transformations. Sometimes that change in mindset is a challenge for interns.
Have you interned elsewhere? How was that experience?
I have interned with other organisations. Delhi Metro and ICRA (Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency) and have had varied experiences. DMRC is again a very professional organisation and the culture of discipline permeates from the top, from the staff work ethic to the train timings, it is just remarkable regimen! I had great exposure in the operations part and it is a good opportunity for engineers and architects who are seeking to understand large scale operations.
ICRA has a management consulting arm called IMaCS where I did my internship. They are a private firm which works among other aspects, the urban development and mobility projects. I had an experience of working directly with clients and working on live projects. It was a great industry experience I was seeking for.
Tell us a bit about your career path. What do planners do?
Urban and Regional Planning is essentially everything related to organising and improving the quality of life for people living in cities, towns and villages. To give it an analogy, just as an architect designs a building, a planner designs a city! Since cities transcend generations, it is a hard task- from the broad aspects of land use optimisation, mobility linkage and physical infrastructure provisioning to the macro details like sustainable neighbourhoods, social infrastructure, inclusive designs.
It is an art where a planner has to do resonance with the scientific techniques, coupled with the actual feasibility and the community acceptance. It is a field where there are inputs from planners, engineers, economists, doctors and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
There is a huge scope for urban development today as India is a fast developing economy. The Smart Cities program demonstrates the huge need for planners in the country. As we prosper, people will demand better cities and places. This phenomenon will never change. Therefore one may call it recession proof!
There is enormous scope to work directly with Government organisations like NITI Aayog or Municipal Corporations and Development Authorities as city planners. One can even choose to work in the corporate private sector in top management consultancies.
Any advice to those seeking internships in NITI Aayog?
Keep your mind open! NITI Aayog is a think tank and they want young minds who can think out of the box and explore opportunities where none existed. With India emerging as a superpower, those who are coming for an internship at NITI have to think not just local and national, but global. There is a lot of scope to learn and research, so utilise the opportunity to your best!
Find out about other government internships here.