I worked with BioEnable Technologies, Pune, from February to September 2010, as a technical support engineer; and with Larsen and Toubro Infotech, Bangalore, as a software engineer from October 2010 until March 2013. I worked on testing devices and customising their software in both places; biometric devices in Pune and network processors in Bangalore.
During my post graduation, I did three internships. The first was with the Centre for Rural Management (CRM), Kottayam, Kerala. For a month, I worked as a part of a team which evaluated the Centrally Sponsored Schemes in three districts of Karnataka. Every year, the central government sends teams to selected places to see how the schemes for which they allot money have been implemented by the respective state governments. I came across some really fruitful development works being carried out, and also a few instances of mismanagement.
The second was with ActionAid India, at New Delhi, for a month. I worked on the Street Vendors Act, 2014, analysing the good and bad things about it, mainly researching on how it could be manipulated by the authorities and be a bane for the street vendors.
My third internship was with the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. This was the field work for my dissertation. For a month, I interviewed the people at Karimadom Colony, Thiruvananthapuram, studying their post-slum rehabilitation experiences. I observed that the the beneficiaries were generally happy about getting to live in much better places now, though there were some tensions along the lines of allocation of houses.
After my post graduation, I joined the Andhra Pradesh State Development Planning Society (APSDPS), at Hyderabad, in April 2015. This is where I currently work. APSDPS is a part of the Planning Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh. I work majorly on two fronts- poverty and technology. I’m glad that I get to work in the areas I like.
Poverty is a grand old and vast subject. There are an uncountable number of experts, studies, and publications on it. But, it’s still very much out there! The World Bank (the big guy in poverty studies and policies) says that there are more than a billion people on this planet who live on less than $1.25 a day (called extreme poverty). So it’s very much a challenge even today as it was a few decades ago.
There are some fundamental concerns associated with the fight against poverty. First of all, experts can’t get to agree on the definition of it. Some of them say it’s the lack of money. Some others say it’s the absence of capabilities. Furthermore, the guys who say it’s about money cannot agree on a level of income below which a person shall be called “poor”. And the people on the capabilities side do not agree on which are those capabilities. A lot of academic and government efforts have been spent on where to draw the poverty line, rather than how to fight poverty.
Now if we talk about solutions to poverty, there could be many. What I think is, if people are employed or they have an enterprise, that’s a source of regular income and this is very crucial to their wellbeing. I mean, people should have what the literature calls “purchasing power”. So the way I see it, employment/enterprise is a key solution to poverty. But this is very much dependent on a lot of other factors, such as the existence of firms where people can be employed, skill levels of the people, government policies etc. I don’t think that popular welfare measures like subsidies and rations don’t help people to escape poverty, they just do their bit in making both the ends meet for the poor in their daily lives. My ideas in this area are still nascent but this is the direction in which I would like to move.
Coming to technology, it’s driving the world today. It has had a great impact in the past too, however it’s relevant today than ever before. Facebook, 4G internet, 3D printing, and smartphones are stuff which we could not even think about having 30 years ago. Technological advancement is often disruptive in nature- the erstwhile leader in the camera industry, Kodak, is almost nowhere in the picture now. Such rapid technological changes bring with them great opportunities and, at the same time, challenges, to the table. For instance, automation could result in loss of millions of jobs in the coming years. So, a government has the responsibility to put in the right policy, regulatory, and legal framework to maximise its benefits and minimize its negative impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. A lot of my work in the technology front is in this direction.