I had always been interested in politics and policy-making. But as an Electronics and Electrical Communication student at IIT Kharagpur, I had never had any serious insights into current issues or policy. I felt constrained by the lack of avenues and like many young Indians, I was skeptical about our political system.
When I first chanced upon the Legislative Assistant to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship, it seemed like a very interesting opportunity. The Fellowship offered a chance to work closely with a Member of Parliament (MP) and engage with the legislative process. It was not a natural career path for an Engineer but I felt compelled to give it a shot. In retrospect, it has been a fantastic seven months, working as a Legislative Assistant to an MP!
The LAMP Fellowship gives you a unique perspective to understand the factors that contribute to national legislation, the effort that goes into policy making as well as the political pulls and pressures that MPs deal with. One of the first things that struck me was the sheer amount of work an MP puts in. The number of people he/she meets on a daily basis, the obligations that they need to fulfil is simply remarkable: kudos to them for the effort that they put in!
Before being placed with my MP, PRS conducted an intensive training session for our cohort. The training familiarised us with basic parliamentary and legal frameworks, parliamentary procedures, information sources and research tools. It also put me at par with other Fellows who came from a background in Law or other related academic disciplines.
During the course of the past seven months, I have researched myriad issues. One that I am especially proud of is the extensive work that I have put into researching and analyzing the Copyright Bill. And my MP has selected this to be his maiden speech in Parliament! Other highlights for me include researching the controversial Lokpal Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill and policy issues such as FDI in retail. Besides working on legislation, I have helped my MP prepare Parliamentary Questions, research for Standing Committee meetings as well as speeches for media and public appearances. I am eagerly looking forward to working on the Union and Railway Budget in the forthcoming session of Parliament.
One of the most important duties of an MP is that of oversight i.e. holding the Executive accountable. This makes Parliamentary Questions a very important tool. Indeed, after undertaking rigorous research to prepare Questions, it is always a great thrill to see it being answered by the Minister in the House.
Working as a Legislative Assistant means that you have to be thorough in your research and keep abreast of all that is happening in the country. This has been one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of the Fellowship.
Besides the opportunity to interact with an MP, the LAMP Fellowship also provides a platform to engage with experts from various fields. Over the past few months, I have interacted with leading opinion makers such as Mr. Brajesh Mishra, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Mr. S.Y.Qureshi, Mr. Javed Akhtar and many others.
Being a LAMP Fellow offers a platform for young Indians to move a step ahead, to move beyond merely criticizing the government for policy paralysis and constructively participating in the policy making process. As a young citizen, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to engage with the legislative process in a proactive manner.
For more information on the LAMP fellowship, please visit: www.lamp.prsindia.org/
Applications for 2012-13 are now being invited. Last date to apply: February 26, 2012.
Ashish Modi (BTech in Electronics Engineering, IIT Kharagpur)