Sunday, 12 July 2020

Man With A Mission

Updated: September 1, 2012 5:22 pm

Millions of Odisha’s tribal children can only dream of going to school. They are the landless class who are caught in the worst form of poverty. Education alone can empower and bring about a change. Irrespective of all the tall claims made by the government, and all the money it spends, its actions do not reach these people at the lowest level of the socio-economic ladder. The Scheduled Tribes constitute the most backward group among the weaker sections in Odisha. The nearly 7 million tribal people, of 62 different tribes, constitute 22.21 per cent of the total population of the state.

Illiteracy restricts employability. Empowered by education, tribes can make a quantum jump in life, become role models and catalyst of change in the community.

What has not happened in centuries has now been achieved. Dr Achyuta Samanta and his Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) at Bhubaneswar has made it possible by helping to attain this goal by educating underprivileged tribal children and ensuring a secured future for them. Wherever you look at our country, there is so much to do in terms of tribal development and nothing would look sufficient, however a visit to the KISS campus is an experience of success and fulfillment.

“Kalam Inspires”. These two words have so often been used by the press for our ex-President that they have become catchwords for both headlines and bylines. However, when he visited the KISS Campus, APJ Abdul Kalam was so touched that the headlines said “Kalam Inspired”. Yes, he was so inspired that he came back for a second visit.

The official homepage of Kalinga Institute of Social Studies, Bhubaneswar has an interesting byline: it describes KISS as India’s Second Santiniketan. I strongly feel that if Gurudev Tagore returns today and visits the KISS Campus, he will rename Santiniketan as India’s second KISS.

Tucked in one corner of Odisha’s Capital city, the KIIT University and the Social Sciences institute are housed on a vast campus having dozens of aesthetically architectured buildings spread over 350 acres. The campus is on par with any of world’s best universities. Modern air-conditioned buildings, wireless Internet, multimedia classrooms, laboratories, conference and convention halls, soothing landscapes and art deco murals are the hallmark of this small mini university town. The campus feels like a big ashram with pathways connecting airy buildings and small waterbodies and gardens scattered all over. There is an air of vibrancy, students from all over the country, or rather the world, with great expectancy in their eyes, can be seen in the different faculties. Seventy-five per cent of the students are from outside Odisha, most from the neighbouring states. Students from the north-east, SAARC countries, and some students from Turkey, Nigeria and China too are enrolled. Every year, over 200,000 students appear—the joint entrance exam—KIIT-EE in 120 centres across India. Of them, only the top 3500 are contenders for admission.

Since it introduced its first undergraduate study programme in 1997, KIIT has rapidly spawned schools of professional education—medical, dental, nursing, business management, law, fashion, rural management, biotechnology, film and media sciences, yoga and spiritualism. To build an efficient alumni, KIIT has attracted high-quality professors from across India, as well as a few from the United States and Canada, by offering two to three times the salaries they would earn at other top Indian institutions. 80 per cent of faculty can boast of PhD qualifications. In 2010, the university staged an academic coup of sorts by recruiting Dr Ashok Kolaskar, the former vice chancellor of Pune University and a pioneer of bioinformatics. He set up the new department and brought in a very high standard of education in the campus.

This green university has already made a significant impact by way of academic initiatives in several areas such as developing software for testing and evaluating faculties of engineering colleges, and is an enthusiastic participant in IT major Wipro Corporation’s Mission lOx initiative to continuously train and upgrade engineering faculty in English language communication and student management. The placement record of KIIT speaks of its reputation, even foreign majors line up to pick up the best among the best.

There is an International School thrown in too, which has affiliations with the Delhi-based Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), UK and International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), Geneva. The school’s 500,000 sq. ft built-up area spread over five buildings obviously inspired by the Louis Kahn school of architecture with long corridors, cross ventilation and airy classrooms, is supported by a 120-strong faculty recruited from across the country and abroad and has 750 students mainly from eastern India and the north-east states, but also from 11 foreign countries including Canada, the US, the UK, Korea, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Of them 550 reside in modern air-conditioned residential suites, each housing either four or two students.

Yet the founder of this Mecca for education, Dr Achyuta Samanta has no office of his own. He prefers to do his work at a desk under a fragrant Kadamba tree, in a garden outside a university building where he meets visiting foreign diplomats, Indian movie stars, journalists, and other visitors. His sheer down-to-earth humility and spartan lifestyle has inspired many. His life story could be a quintessentially bollywood film, a rags to riches Robin Hood, who gave back to society much more than he got from it. He hasn’t taken a break in the last two decades and works 16 hours a day.

Dr Samanta did not start KIIT University or the International School to make money or earn fame, his motive was to have a world-class professional university that would support KISS, which is a charitable effort to aid the desperately poor, indigenous tribal people of this state by offering them free education and a decent life.

While the KISS and KIIT University are separate entities, they are fundamentally tied together as they both have a common founder. The Rs 2-4 lakh per-student tuition he charges at the university supports the Social Sciences Institute. KIIT provides a percentage of its annual profit for KISS, even the faculty members voluntarily donate 3 per cent of their salaries to it. As for the frugal Dr Samanta, he gives away most of his salary to the tribal school.

For KISS and its charismatic founder, it has been a long climb to the top. In the course of the years, both the institutions and the individual have bagged many awards. In fact there are three mentions in the Limca Book of Records.

  • Dr Samanta holds the record as the youngest chancellor of any deemed university.
  • KIIT is the only institution in India which was accorded the status of a university within six years of its formation.
  • KISS and KIIT jointly share the honour for being the only institute where the dictum of “KG to PG” i.e. Kindergarten to Post-Graduation applies. In fact, one can now attribute a new slogan, from KG to PhD.

Dr A Samanta grew up as a destitute in a small village. Having lost his father while he was just four years old, Achyuta had to work to support himself and his seven siblings from the age of six. He toiled in the fields and also attended the village school where he excelled. Even two square meals each day were a luxury. The high school was a good sixteen kilometers away from his village, there were many a day when he would walk the distance and eventually earned a scholarship which culminated in a graduate degree in chemistry. He did his post-graduation with flying colours and got a cushy job of a lecturer in a good college in Bhubaneswar. He could have easily called his struggling days a quit, and led a cushy life, but the fire within him burned.

The young man had felt, seen and experienced what poverty and deprivation was all about. He was determined to make a change for the poor and the underprivileged, however small it may be. With just a small savings of Rs 5000/- he started the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Training in 1992. Starting from a one room institute with 12 students, he took the path that was uphill all the way, hurdles and pitfalls abounded, but in a short span of twenty years, his sheer will and determination has transformed KIIT into a state-of-the-art world-class university.

KIIT soon had membership of all prestigious associations, like the Association of Commonwealth University, University Mobility of Asia Pacific, International Association of Universities, Association of Indian Universities, International University of Education etc. It has signed Memorandums of Understandings with more than 50 Universities from across the world. This meteoric rise of KIIT was not without divine intervention. Looking back on those difficult years, Dr Samanta believes that besides divine intervention, it was his unwavering belief in the power of education to lift people out of poverty that enabled him to realise his KilT-KISS dream even as he routinely suffered public ridicule and societal indifference.

There was a time when mounting debts and difficult times nearly brought things to a halt. But a determined Dr Samanta did not give up. Few knew that the very purpose of setting up KIIT was not to encash on the growing market of private institutions and make a fortune, rather it was for setting up the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, the brainchild of the founder.

The small school of just 125 students was set up in 1993. Today, the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences has 16,500 students and it offers a full range of educational services, including primary and secondary school, vocational education, and undergraduate and graduate courses. The Campus has become a must visit for every person of eminence who visits Odisha. Dignitaries, diplomats, heads of state, international agencies chiefs, glitterati and gurus, all have expressed their amazement and astonishment during their visits.

Several United Nations agencies, foreign universities, corporate houses and philanthropic individuals have been sufficiently moved to lend financial aid and advice to the institute’s management. The UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) runs a life skills and sexual health counseling programme at the campus; UNICEF and KIIT University have jointly established a Centre for Child Studies; UNESCO has initiated a ground water study and management programme; the US Embassy has sponsored an English language learning programme for 14-16-year olds; and Hanseo University, South Korea, runs a mentorship programme for 100 students and supports the girls rugby team. This unique Institute is on the wish list of many more aid agencies—no one who visits it goes back unimpressed.

Several corporates like Tata Steel, National Mineral Development Corporation, Vedanta and Nalco have adopted a set number of students. These companies have all made their profits from the mineral-rich tribal areas, their activities have displaced countless tribal people. For them it is a payback time now, and KISS is a one-stop shop for their CSR commitments.

Despite all this support and continuously raising and investing resources, both KIIT and KISS have an aggregate liability of around Rs 500 crore to several banks. The participative spirit of the founder provides 3 per cent of the revenue of KIIT University, 3 per cent of the gross salary of its faculty and employees, even 3 per cent of the gross profits of the vendors and suppliers which are pumped back into the kitty, an amount of nearly 10 crore annually. Revenue is also generated from the sale of handicrafts and other products made by students in their vocational classes (30 per cent of the revenue is retained by KISS with students sending the rest to their impoverished families back home).

The word about KISS has grown steadily in Odisha’s poor interiors, and for the past three years the institute has been getting about 50,000 applications a year. This is in sharp contrast to the state and central governments massive funding for tribal health and education. Crores are being pumped for tribal uplift, the schools and ashrams in the tribal districts are all failed examples of sheer apathy. For a fraction of what the government spends, KISS is delivering a world-class education. The success rate of its pass-outs is a hundred per cent, something which is unbelievable as the state’s average hovers around 70 per cent getting the passing grades.

At KISS, passing out is just a first step to the bright new world that lies beyond. The students, according to their merit and ability, are all sent to KIIT, where they get world-class education with a wide choice.

Sticking to his original vision, Dr Samanta has even bigger plans for KISS. He wants to start sending 30 or 40 students per year to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology and another 30 to the competitive Indian Administrative Service, the country’s civil service.

Managing this unique institution, reportedly the world’s largest boarding school, all mainly first generation students speaking 30 different tribal languages is a gargantuan task. With a built-up area of 600,000 sq. ft, KISS is equipped with a 50 kw solar power plant, an Reverse Osmosis water filtration plant which supplies 100,000 litres of potable water daily, and a fully mechanized state-of-the-art kitchen which serves 45,000 meals per day in a dining hall with a seating capacity of 10,000. The food is all steam cooked, hygiene and nutrition is ensured.

The 16,500 students reside in 10 dormitories equipped with 11,000 two-tier and three-tier beds, and utilising 800 shower-bathrooms and 800 toilets, amenities wholly unfamiliar to these impoverished children. There is a modern gym and a full-fledged hospital.

The academic infrastructure includes 105 classrooms (operating in two shifts), two computer labs to seat 600 students, a 15,000 sq. ft library equipped with 150,000 books and e-journal subscriptions, a wi-fi system-enabled campus and close circuit television camera system for children’s safety and security.

The children are inculcated with deep human values, high levels of discipline can be seen and felt. They appear confident, well balanced, mannered and happy. The happiness is visibly discernible in their eyes. This is in sharp contrast to the lives of their parents and siblings back home, who live pathetically marginalised lives in remote forest or hilly hamlets.


THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE GUN


 

The scourge of Left wing extremist in the tribal states of eastern India has stalled developmental activities. Due to the rise in Maoist activities, the poor tribal people are being pushed even deeper into poverty. The Superintendents of Police of three affected districts of Odisha are trying to dissuade tribal youth from getting swayed by the Maoist propaganda through education and employment. The administration has joined hands with KISS, has selected more than 200 tribal students from remote Maoist-affected villages of the district for provision of free education. The original game plan was to have at least one individual from each tribal family of remote Naxal-infested villages of the districts to be educated at KISS. They would get vocational training from the very beginning, along with the formal education. Bur this was a tall order, even for an institute like KISS.

The initial experiment has yielded results in a short span of just four years. More then 200 of the trained youth have been employed by companies outside the state. In Achyuta Samanta’s own words, “meaningfully educating and mainstreaming children from bottom-of-the-pyramid families is the best prescription for combating the threat of Naxalism, and raising the poor majority out of poverty.”

Inscribed on many of the walls of the Campus was this slogan which I gathered was coined by the founder himself. “Poverty creates illiteracy and literacy eradicates poverty.” This simple thought provoking line has become the catchword , the leitmotif of all the students who pass through this hallowed temple of learning.

Twenty-two out of the thirty districts in Odisha are Naxal affected. These are districts with primarily tribal population, which exceeds 12 million. This social need is imperative and has prompted Dr Samanta and his top management team to draw up plans to promote 20 new KISS schools in eastern India. The KISS model needs to be replicated and rolled out nationally. And for this purpose, the KIIT Society has recently established a task force with cells in New Delhi and the metros for raising funds from corporate and philanthropists.

The Government of India is spending hundreds of crores on the Naxal-affected districts with no success. India’s political class and babudom should wake up to the social issues of Left-wing extremism. The state should accept the fact that it has failed in tackling Maoism as a law and order problem. A track two approach needs to be adopted, where the social problems that lead to subversive activities need to be addressed. The KISS model and the sheer determination and perseverance of Dr Samanta should be adopted for a long-term solution.

 


Numali Ketra is a 14-year-old tribal girl who was born and brought up in a remote village located in Kandhamal district. Her mother died when she was very young, and her father worked when there was work to be found. Numali had never imagined that she would ever go to school, as there are no schools in the vicinity, no one in her family had ever been to school.

The local MLA had recommended her for admission and Numali is now in Class VIII and is very good at studies. Before joining KISS, she knew only a local dialect, but now she can converse not only in Odia, but also in English and Hindi. Numali aspires to become a nurse and work for her community people, but if Dr Achyuta Samanta has his way, she will most probably become a doctor after getting her MBBS Degree from Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences.

To ensure that there is no cultural disconnect from their tribal way of lives, KISS celebrates most of the tribal festivals in their original colour and fervour. There is a beautiful Jagannath Temple in the Campus, and daily rituals are held in which the students participate.

I enquired about the culture shock that must be affecting the young kids when they are first exposed to this modern-day world. Yes, there are problems during the initial days, but the children get cultured very soon. Rather, the problem arise when they go home during the holidays. Most of the teachers told me that the students were very fast learners. In the close-knit atmosphere, where the spirit of bonhomie exists everywhere, the children learn from each other, they teach each other.

I saw the girls in the vocational classes. The sheer devotion to their work and the exquisite appliqué work they were working on filled me with wonder. They are taught the basic skills of tailoring, cooking, making handicrafts, weaving etc. Most of the students were very good artists and I saw works displayed on the walls.

In the gym I saw the trophies that the students had collected from all over the world. The boys are coached in all modern games besides the tribal sports of archery, hockey, football and surprisingly rugby. In fact they won the world under 14 championship in England, defeating the South African schoolboys and now compete in many international events all over the world. They formed a part of the national team in the Commonwealth Games. I am sure that in the future, we will have Olympians amongst these students.

The sprawling campus boasts five large grounds for field games such as hockey, football, rugby, volleyball, softball; indigenous games such as kho-kho and kabbadi; athletics tracks and an archery range—games and sports in which tribal sportspersons traditionally excel.

I met Pritam Hansda from Mayurbhanj. The youngster pointed to the descending airplane, which was making its final approach descent: “I had seen airplanes fly high above the sky in my village. I dreamt of flying in one some day, and I have been to Vietnam in that one” he said pointing at the sky. Yes, he had gone to participate in an international tournament recently, and bagged the trophy.

Gokul Digal, another starry-eyed student told me that he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up. I heard this from at least half a dozen youngsters on the campus. This was a complement to KISS, and was an example of the reverence the students hold for their teachers.


“I HAVE NO PERSONAL AGENDA”—Dr Achyuta Samanta


Dr Achyuta Samanta has an easy charm about him. His disarming simplicity and down-to-earth manners have earned him many admirers. It was because of his dogged determination that he could translate his dream into reality—by establishing a school for tribal children—Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). So much so that Time magazine had published an article titled “Children of a Lesser God” in its November 7, 2011 issue. In a story on sheer faith, hope and austerity, the magazine focused on its founder Dr Achyuta Samanta’s mission for educating 2 lakh tribal children by the end of this decade. Time magazine acknowledged KISS as the largest institution for tribal children in the world. It is indeed considered a rare honour for any school in India to be featured in Time magazine. While only five Indians have been referred to as the most influential in the magazine, the names of Dr Samanta and the institutions he founded are no doubt a great achievement. Dr Samanta holds several prestigious posts such as Member, High Level Committee on Higher Education; Executive Council Member, Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA); Member, Coir Board, Government of India; Commission Member, University Grants Commission (UGC); Executive Council Member, All India Council for Technical Education, (AICTE); Member, Ministry of Environment & Forest and Tribal Affairs (Committee on Forest Right Act); Member, National Executive Council, Indian Society for Technical Education; President’s Nominee on the Academic Council of Assam Central University, Silchar; Member, International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), U.S.A.; Member, International Institute of Education (IIE), New York; and Member, Association of University of Asia Pacific (AUAP). In an interview to Uday India Editor Deepak Kumar Rath, Dr A Samanta spoke on length on different issues concerning KISS and KIIT. Excerpts:

You have set a benchmark by bringing a backward state like Odisha to global dais. How do you rate this success as far as this mission goes?

You are right. But you see there is some power we name God, He has been with all throughout my journey. I am just the medium. I owe a lot to my friends who stood by me through thick and thin. We have started at the grassroots level. And starting from the lower rung in a poor state like Odisha and to arrive at this position is a big success. But success has no limits and definitely we with our dogged determination will go the extra mile in the days to come. I am contended, so far so good.

 

What plans do you hold for this institution?

For KIIT, we have no plans for expansion to any part of the country or the state. It is only quality maintenance. I am a dedicated social worker and I am dedicated to the cause of wiping off poverty through the way of providing education. I am desirous of doing more in this regard. Particularly I want to see another 15-20 replicas of KISS not only in Odisha but also outside the state. And the enrolment of students must be around two lakhs with 20 branches of KIITs. Age is on my side. I am patient to do so. But then, we will go far ahead in another five years.

What do you want to expand the social activities or KIIT? What are the other places than Odisha where you want to expand the activities?

I want to expand the social activities. The work is going on in these places i.e. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Delhi. There are many states coming up to have a replica of KISS for the underprivileged children—not only for the tribal but also for the children of all stripes. Definitely there will be minimum 10-15 branches outside Odisha in the coming 5-10 years. In our own state, we will have more branches in the tribal dominated districts. So definitely, there will be more replicas of KISS.

 

What are the social activities you’re laying emphasis on?

I have been doing social activities like the eradication of poverty through education for the tribal people, the Scheduled Castes or any other type of backward people since 1992-93. Because we all know education is the only solution to eradicate any problem.

 

In Delhi, there are not many SCs, STs or minorities. Then why did you decide to start this in Delhi?

In Delhi, there are thousands of children moving around nowhere. Many of them belong to the SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities (all categories). We take care of all the students and not only of the tribal. There are many poor people deprived of education in Delhi.

 

So you are saying that you will provide them food, shelter and education?

Yes. KISS is a complete solution. It provides education, food, shelter, health and everything and also sees that children are brought up with the mainstream society. It also provides higher education. This ensures students of KISS a job at the end of the day. KISS is the solution. That’s why it has become a successful model in the country. As we all know that half education is more harmful than no education. If you are leaving the student in the middle of class 8th, 9th or 10th etc, they will be more harmful to the country than the ones with no education. That is why KISS is more successful as it provides the complete solution. Once the students join KISS, Bhubaneswar, they leave the college with higher education and job in hand.

What are the sources for expanding KISS?

Present KISS is running in a very good financial model. It is already on the website. I have done a very good financial model. As far as the other branches are concerned, the state government will support. We will only run the show. In different districts of Odisha, I have to generate funds through various corporate and business houses. Otherwise I can’t do all these things as I am not a businessman or an industrialist. So I have to generate funds through different sources, then only will it be successful.

Government is splurging crores on every state, still there are a lot of families on the margins. So how do you think you will reach out to the margins of society?

I won’t comment on what government spends or not but we are successful in our own way. Everybody has seen the success of KISS in these years. We are successful that the children are getting their total rights and their parents are so happy. They excel in fields like education and sports and get a job at the ready. All the students are hugely successful. That shows how KISS has come in leaps and bounds.

Can you please elaborate on your success as a social worker?

As such I have no personal agenda or self-interest. If anybody does anything with perseverance and sincerity he will make it to the top.

How do you define satisfaction with the success of KISS?

We started with only 150 tribal children in 1993. And now it has become world’s biggest free fully residential tribal institute that too with 16,500 students at one place. The students are also doing exceptionally well. Making our students feel comfortable with the environment and ambience is our sole motto and this is where thousands of tribal children are absorbed with, which all displays our satisfaction.

How did you manage this big show despite many adverse situations in Odisha?

My patience never gives way. My strong will power and vision have guided me through. I feel I’m blessed by Almighty, Who helped me execute the plan with 100 per cent commitment. I had encounters where jealousy thrived, ego clashed and hurdles came my way but I stood my ground and gained ground. Destiny played a significant role and my sincere endeavours paid me in the end.

How do you balance between professionalism and political atmosphere?

I am not inclined to any political party. That is why every party likes me. And they are very happy with my activities. And I am able to strike a balance between the profession and political atmosphere prevailing either in the state or in the country. I have never faced any problem from any political party. Rather they are very co-operative to my work.

What response did you get from the society or the state government the day the foundations stone was laid of KISS?

Society definitely gives us the moral support. Government also provides us goodwill. We have been doing this with the help of moral support and goodwill. Definitely for doing such a challenging work in such a very big manner, we need good wishes from one and all and I have got goodwill from one and all.

What actually prompted you to start KISS?

My childhood experience. I was born in a poor family. I lost my father at the age of four. We were seven brothers and sisters. We could not even get one square meal for two days. Due to my experience, I decided to do something for society.

How much time do you work daily for these social activities?

I have been working 18 hours a day for the last 20 years—without taking a single day break. I am a bachelor and God has been very kind for not putting me on the bed due to any disease. Therefore, it is possible for me to work 18 hours everyday.

You said that you had a painful past. Can you tell us any memorable moment of your past?

There are thousand memorable memories in my life. As we have struggled a lot in our childhood and till now we are struggling. So there are a lot of memories. There are uncountable miseries. It is better not to explain them. Anyway, we have overcome them. And we have come to a position where we can help others.

Can you remember the happiest moment of your life?

There are many happy moments. When we got the status of university within a span of 6-7 years, that was the happiest moment for KIIT and me.

You have been selected for one of the government organisations like UGC and you are managing such a big institute. So how are you doing justice to all facets of life and all of them are top jobs?

If somebody wants, he/she can give justice to all facets of life because we are not employees to any organisation. We are just members and whenever there is requirement, we contribute in every possible manner.

Tell us something about your personal life.

I have no personal life apart from work. My concern is just work, work and work.

Most of the time, you are seen with tribal students. Can you remember any particular memorable narrative with any tribal student?

In 2007, 14-15 tribal children under the age group of 13-14 returned from London with the World Cup in rugby championship and I went to Kolkata airport to receive them. It was a very special moment as children who had not seen even the district headquarters had gone to London and defeated ten countries. They emerged as winners despite all odds.

Earlier you resigned from the post of chancellor and now you have also resigned from the post of secretary. Why so?

I am meant for work. I do not run after any position. Though I thought that as a founder I should be the chancellor when KIIT was declared a deemed university. But after one year, I persuaded the renowned academician Prof Hari Gautam to be the chancellor. At that time also the people were surprised that how this fellow could leave the post of the chancellor. But we thought that the position of the chancellor should be given to a great academician. Similarly, I have resigned from the post of secretary because my intention is to create a democratic environment in KIIT and KISS. It is not like that I should be the secretary till death and after that my relative should be the secretary. I don’t have any type of greed. I just want development of the institute. The way I am attached with the institute today, I will remain so till my death whether I am the secretary or not.

Is there any such fear that due to your resignation the image of the institution will decline?

Absolutely not. KIIT and KISS are my blood and oxygen. As I have no other business, I will take care that the development is not hampered in any way.


Ten of their pass-outs are now teachers. They graduated from the KIIT College and chose to remain back and redeem their debt to their poor kin. Even the KIIT and KIIS Board of Directors have ten nominated members from the students and ex-students.

Seeing Achyuta Samanta amongst his beloved children reminds one of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, only here he was leading the flocks not to their doom but to a new horizon, a new dawn, a world where their dreams would come true. When questioned on his bachelorhood, which is quite often, he just sways his arms around and shows the swarms of eager faces that surround him, he is the father figure , his large happy family is everywhere around him.

KISS’s vocational, undergraduate, and graduate programme complement one another, Mr. Samanta says, because the vocational courses teach students how to “earn while they learn.” While they study in college, he says, they can continue to send a third of their earnings—about $15 to $20—to their parents. For people who may be living on as little as a dollar a day, it’s a significant amount.

Against this backdrop of both KIIT University and KISS having steadily established themselves as highly respected institutions of education with wide outreach and social purpose, Dr Samanta has set his sights higher and wider. “KIIT University has reached its optimal expansion capability and now our focus within the university will be on continuously improving the quality of teaching, academics and research. With its reputation, I can open a KIIT University branch in every state, but that is not my goal.”

For many of the world’s visionaries there comes a time when public exultation results in the individual becoming more important than the institution or the movement that he initiated. This has happened to many Indians, but the primary example would be the Mahatma, who quietly retreated into the background after India’s fractured Independence, and the recent India Against Corruption Campaign of Anna Hazare.

For many, Dr Samanta is basking in all the glory. Many of the envious lot have raised questions over his integrity and over the sheer success of his ventures. However, the few who know him closely, maintain that Dr Achyuta Samanta has always been uncomfortable in all the media glare and hoopla that has been showered on him in recent years. He rejoices in the success of his dream, and is now dreaming bigger and wider. Given the choice, he would have loved to be in the background, seeing the fulfillment of his dream mission from the shadows. However, he has expressed his desire to quit the centre stage. In January 2011, he had written to the Board of the two Institutes, and offered to quit the position of Secretary, the post he has held for the last 20 years. But KIIT & KISS Society had requested him to continue till the end of 99th Indian Science Congress. He resigned from the post in March 2012 soon after completion of the Congress in January 2012.

Not many were surprised, when the newspapers announced his resignation on the 5th August. In his own words he said: “I have vacated the position to give chance to others.” However, he shall continue to see the overall development of KIIT and KISS as both organisations are blood and oxygen to him.

For Achyuta, his canvas is now bigger and he will do social services at a national level. Many states have requested him to replicate the KISS model. Odisha’s loss will be the nation’s gain. May his good work keep going on.

Henceforth, all the growth and extension efforts will be concentrated for KISS. Moreover, now that KISS has demonstrated its capability to provide quality holistic education to the poorest of the poor, raising funds from the Central and state governments and from corporate India for establishing more KISS model schools for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe children countrywide. In fact it can provide a very efficient turnkey solution for tribal education worldwide.

 

 By Anil Dhir From Bhubaneswar

 

 

 

 

 

 

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