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From An Unpaid Internship To An Underpaid Job: The Journey Of A Fresher

Posted by Priyanka Ramesh in Society
September 12, 2017

With a heavy bag, containing a laptop, lunch box, books and files, I was waiting outside my house for an e-rickshaw to the metro station. I felt my energy drain out by the second. After a few minutes of waiting, I got on one and headed to the metro station. The station was packed with passengers ready to begin their day. I got really frustrated and that’s when I started talking to myself.

‘F**k’ was the first word that popped in my head followed by the word ‘freshers’. I realised how much I had been exploited by this word. I guess ‘freshers’ has become the new ‘F word’ and why wouldn’t it be? The tag of a fresher makes one open to all kinds of industrial exploitation.

The first time I was exploited as a fresher was when I did my first unpaid internship at a PR firm. I had to travel for work at my own expense and do a lot of work that could have been done via mail. But who was I to speak up as a 20-year-old? It was more important to enter the industry than to be paid, after all.

Delhi-NCR has almost a 100 media institutes and colleges, and at least a 1000 students look for summer internships. Now, how would a potential business person look at it? A market full of young people full of passion and dedication to learn something? No, they see a market full of educated people that would work for free in the name of industrial experience.

As if my agitation wasn’t already on a boiling high, the fact that Doordarshan demands a fee to allow students to intern for just a certificate angered me more. A friend of mine did her internship at Doordarshan and didn’t learn anything there. However, she was content that she had a certificate from the organisation.

Nobody knows how this trend of an unpaid internship started but it really has become a plague. A plague, that begins with an unpaid internship and then results in an underpaid job.

I remember applying for the position of a video producer at an eminent news channel. After cracking the video test and other formalities with flying colours, I was just offered ₹12,000 per month because despite being talented, I was nothing but a fresher. For someone who’s not from the city, life is really difficult with the rent itself being around ₹15,000 a month. Being paid less than that is not just exploitation but also, humiliation.

Right now, I have a job that I enjoy but I am still underpaid. Stressed and exhausted over the thought of the ‘F word’, I board the metro every day, only to join fellow underpaid people going to work.