Achyuta Samanta Curated

Founder Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technol...

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Achyuta Samanta have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Achyuta Samanta's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming entrepreneurs. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Was there any particular instance that drew you towards working for educating the tribal children?

    My own childhood experience was enough! I had seen how poverty could kill everything, including dreams. This inspired me to work to get the tribal children out of the cycle of poverty.

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  • How did you manage to study so well?

    I followed the elderly boys to reach the school. And that’s how my academic journey started. I would regularly turn up at school, despite being dissuaded. Seeing my persistence to study, one day the headmaster finally gave in. I earned scholarships throughout and from school I managed to reach college. My academic excellence helped me get a job of a teacher in a local college. And thereafter began my zest to help the less fortunate.

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  • What was your childhood like?

    Thrown into the mire of poverty due to my father’s sudden death, my mother had to undergo a great deal of struggle to support herself and her children. She could only manage to provide us a dilapidated thatch-roofed house for shelter in the village. She nurtured us mostly with rice gruel and wild spinach, because that was all her meagre earnings could fetch. The face-off with poverty, however, did not daunt me. I walked my life’s journey with utmost calm; solemnity and determination to undo the pessimism that usually surrounds the lives of people betrayed by fate.

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  • What difficulties did you face to reach thus far?

    I started from scratch. The premises were a rented house, without any backing, banking or background. Obviously, there were hundreds of hurdles from all corners. But as our intention was good and honest, we overcame all obstacles and established a successful organisation. I remember being hounded by moneylenders, asked for bribes by bureaucrats and having to pay hotel bills for education inspectors – all this because I wished to run an educational institution for deprived children!

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  • What has changed for the tribal families whose children have been educated at KISS?

    There is a sea-change, not only among the tribal children, but also in the entire tribal community and the government. KISS has been accepted as the most successful model of tribal empowerment through education in the country. It provides a complete solution to the deprived tribal children. Once a child enrolls, he or she goes out with higher education. It has a zero dropout rate. And the students are excellent in every sector – academics, sports and culture. They are bringing laurels to the state.

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  • In what way are your institutions helping the tribal children?

    The children, who, at one time were not even getting two square meals at home, went on to become B Com and MBBS students. Hundreds of children are today doing Law and many are MA economic scholars wanting to specialise in rural education with the desire to return to their tribal roots as teachers. My aim is to empower the youth and see that they get equal opportunities as others.

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  • Will R&D, innovation remain your focus areas at KIIT?

    At KIIT, we have believe in quality upgradation where R&D and innovation have a key role to play. We have started an initiative called 'Academic Placements' where we encourage our students to pursue research at foreign universities wherein they get remuneration more than what they could have got through a job. Our KIIT Technology Business Incubator is widely popular throughout the country.

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  • You started off as an educational entrepreneur. Where do you visualise KIIT in the years ahead?

    I started both KIIT and KISS from scratch in 1992 in a two-room rented house with a humble sum of Rs 5,000. We have driven KIIT in such a way that it is now a national and international player and its presence is not restricted to state alone. We have created assets of thousands of crores at KIIT. There are no branches of KIIT planned and the institution will be stable here. KIIT offers the best placements every year with 250+ companies, including 15-20 MNCs visiting its campus.

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  • Do you think education is the answer to poverty and deprivation?

    Yes, poverty alleviation can be achieved only through education. At the Oslo Education Summit held on July 6, the theme for deliberation was 'Poverty Alleviation Through Education'. The world leaders realised that Millennium Development Goals had not been achieved since education did not get the focus it deserved, hence there should be a shift from MDGs to Sustainable Development Goals. I am happy that what I have been doing for more than 20 years is now deliberated and recognised at the global stage. As of now, chief ministers of 15 states are in talks with me to set up KISS like institutions in their respective states. I believe, in the next five years, KISS model will be replicated across the country.

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  • What are the other sources of funding for KISS?

    We have a statutory rule wherein every staff of KISS donates three per cent of his/her gross salary to KISS. We have a staff strength of approximately 10,000, contributing Rs 3 to four crore every year. There are around 500 people doing business with KIIT today including our vendors who donate three per cent of their net profit to KISS. Then, there are 200 elite guardians who park in voluntary contributions ranging from Rs 20,000 up to Rs 100,000 helping us to raise Rs 3 to four crore per year. This way, we are covering 90 per cent of our recurring expenses. The rest 10 per cent comes as donations from different noble persons and organisations, mostly Indian. This is a very good sustainable model for running KISS.

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  • KISS has grown into a huge institution for tribal children. What is the finance model for running a non-profit institution of this scale?

    The growth of KISS has followed the growth of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Training. It's rare to see social service of this order where an organisation has Rs 500 crore of bank loan. We took this loan from nationalised banks for KIIT. From the beginning, we have made this resolution at the KIIT Society that five per cent of KIIT's turnover will go to KISS.

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  • The qualities you say must be developed within oneself to be good are quite difficult to cultivate in children. So how do you suggest doing that?

    It has to be done in childhood itself. Later, it is difficult to make people cultivate good qualities. From my own experience, whatever I have learned in my childhood has remained ingrained in me. It was exactly this learning that helped me become a better person in life. When I was a kid, I was poor. Sometimes, I didn’t have enough food for my own self. I used to work hard to earn money to sustain. But even out of that earning, I would pay for the meals of four of my friends. I used to earn one rupee per day and at the end of the day all of us would go and eat something we call Piaji in Oriya. Generally kids in villages steal fruits from someone’s tree. Of course, it’s a guileless deed. But if it becomes a habit, it develops into something more serious when the child grows up. When I was a child, I did not steal mangoes from someone else’s tree. That is why, today, I don’t steal from the funds of KIIT.

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  • Could you elaborate a little upon what you mean by being good to oneself?

    When I say one should be good, I mean one should be constructive, positive and helping. One can only give to others if they themselves possess these qualities. And more importantly, it’s only if the youth possess these qualities that they would be willing to work for the people. And after all, if one isn’t a good person for themselves, how would they be any good to the society? Therefore, one must develop good qualities within themselves first.

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  • Any word of advice for the young minds?

    We all know that it’s the youth who hold the potential of transforming nations within them. It is therefore essential that the youth should be good to themselves. It is only after they are good to themselves that they can do good for others.

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  • In your opinion, what is the responsibility of a successful person or a sportsman towards the society?

    I think putting the interests of the society before your own is a very big thing. The problem today is that everyone – be it sportspersons, politicians or bureaucrats – is busy satiating their own interests. I am not saying it is a bad thing. One should also think of their own needs and interests. But at the same time, one should also compromise a bit and work towards the betterment of the society as well. It’s only then that we would be able to build a better nation.

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  • What do you think sets your tournament apart from all these other events that are conducted around the country?

    First of all, I’d like to thank all the participants of the KIIT chess tournament for making it such a huge success. I’m sure the tournaments that are conducted in other cities also have their own charm. But what sets us apart is that we do what we do with lots of love. Whatever we do here, we do it with love. That, I think, is why we are able to conduct an event of such high standard. It’s not a question of providing air-conditioned accommodation or good transport facilities or food. Everything else can be arranged, but not love.

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  • Coming from a very poor background, you’ve reached great heights in the field of teaching. You’re also the founder of the world’s biggest free-of-cost tribal educational institute. Does that make you believe in this analogy that like a pawn gets to become a queen in the game of chess, something similar happens in life?

    When I had started, I had never thought about where I would end up. I didn’t even have a background in the field of social work. I’ve just kept working because this is what I wanted to do and have happened to end up achieving all of this. I neither had any financial backing when I started, nor did I have any contacts. But I worked, because I knew I would get the love and blessings of all of those poor and needy people I was helping. I never had it in mind to become a queen or a king. Even today, I don’t think like that.

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  • And what is your opinion on the game of chess?

    I think chess is a wonderful game. The best thing about it is that it requires the player to have a sharp mind. I think every child should learn the game and start playing from an early age as it will surely help him/her in one way or another.

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  • You work 17-18 hours a day. Was this something you always wanted? Is it something you like doing?

    I like what I do which is why I am doing it.

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  • What are your hobbies?

    By now, I have none remaining. But I do read newspaper if you consider that a hobby. When I was younger, I liked watching movies a lot. When I was a student, I would go to watch the night show at movie theatre without fail. Even after I started with KIIT, when the institute wasn’t as big, I used to watch a movie when I had time. But since the last ten or fifteen years, I simply haven’t had time.

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  • How long do you sleep every night?

    Ideally, I should be sleeping for 7-8 hours. But given the work I have at hand, I can only sleep for around 5-6.

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  • Dedicating yourself to the field of social work, you haven’t even married. Didn’t you ever feel the need to have someone by your side as your wife?

    I have been working so hard that I never had the time to think about all this. I’ve been working around 17-18 hours every day for the last twenty-five years without taking a single day’s break for pleasure or anything else. And God has been so kind to me that he has not left me bed-ridden suffering from even cold or fever even for a day. I do have diabetes, but nobody can tell that I suffer from it. That is why, since the last twenty five years, I did not have time even for an hour to think about anything other than work.

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  • When you were starting out, didn’t you ever feel alone? Didn’t you feel why you were doing it all by yourself when no one else was helping you?

    No, I never thought about all that. I just kept doing what I was doing and I ended up here. That’s my secret. I’d never thought that I’d reach such heights when I started off in a small rented office. It was while working and taking things as they came that twenty-five years passed by, without me even realizing it. And I feel, God has granted me tremendous vigour to work. And it must be understood that it is easier to run fifty public schools than running schools for poor children. We are the ones responsible for the well-being of these kids. If anything happens to anyone, nobody will spare us. It’s not so easy. That is why I give all credit to the almighty. How wonderfully he’s making things work.

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  • You’ve struggled a lot to achieve what you have achieved and have overcome a lot of hardships. Tell us a bit about your journey?

    Whatever I’ve achieved so far is all by the grace of God. This is because it was simply not within my capacity to do the kind of work I’ve done given the social and financial background I have come from. Some people have even said to me that they feel it is beyond the capability of any individual person to do something of this magnitude. It is true that I have had to struggle a lot and work really hard to get to this level today. It’s been a long and hard journey which started when I was just five years old. Forty five years have passed by. Until the age of twenty-five, I was struggling to provide food for my own self. In the next twenty-five years too, I’ve been struggling to provide food. But this time, for others. I believe, this would simply not have been possible without divine intervention. I have merely been a medium; it was actually the almighty who did this through me.

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  • And what is your vision with all of what you’ve made?

    My vision is very clear. I want to eradicate poverty by the means of providing quality education.

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  • But what made you think of stepping into the field of social work?

    It was because of my own personal experiences. I grew up in poverty. My father died when I was barely four or five years old. It was a difficult time for my mother taking care of the family which comprised of seven children. Even when my father was alive, we were by no means affluent. He was just a small-time worker was never able to earn much. Needless to say, he hadn’t left anything behind for us to survive on. Growing up in these conditions, I knew from an early age what poverty, hunger and depression meant. But I’d still say God has been kind to us. We were somehow able to educate ourselves and step up in life. Today, we are all standing at par with others who didn’t have to go through all that we suffered. I and all my siblings are well off today. Having educated myself, I was working as a lecturer of chemistry at a college in Bhubaneswar when I thought I should step into social work.  Since my college days, I wanted to do something for the poor in the society and I felt this was the right time.  I started with a meager amount of five thousand rupees. But by God’s grace, I achieved a lot in a very short period of time.

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  • When and how did you start off setting up the Kalinga Institute?

    It took me a long time to build all of this up bit by bit. I was 25 or 26 when I had started. It was a time when I probably should have been thinking about my romantic life. I’ve turned 50 now. It’s been a long journey for me from stepping into social work to setting up this institute.

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  • How is KIIMS different from other hospitals and how do you evaluate your medical college?

    Medical education in our case is not so costly. We have been taking students from All India Entrance Exam and you will be happy to know that 84,000 students had appeared against 100 seats last year. 85% seats were filled up on merit basis and the fees is not so high. Our hospital definitely differs from other hospitals as huge facilities have been created. People say it is the best in eastern part of India.

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  • Besides other institutions, you have forayed into health care by way of medical education, hospital and satellite dispensaries. Please tell us more about your health care road map.

    We have contributed a lot in education and other social sectors. After venturing into education we have also entered into medical education by opening medical, dental and nursing college to provide a good number of quality doctors to the society or to India. Along with the medical, dental and nursing college we also have also contributed in the health sector. You will be happy to know that this hospital is not a commercial hospital, it is a teaching hospital attached to the medical college where 400 beds are meant only for the poor people and are totally free. In the last 10 years we have been able to have five rural dispensaries in five most interior parts of the Orissa state.

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  • How do you envision health care scenario and more precisely in Orissa?

    Healthcare scenario is very important for any state. Today everyone is health conscious and has a better paying capacity. However, it is a matter of regret that health scenario in India has not improved much but it is slowly improving in comparison to the previous years. Orissa needs a lot of improvement in all sectors and I am hopeful that it is definitely going to happen. Only a few percentages of the people are following the family doctor’s culture. People now first search the internet and go through websites and only if they are convinced , they take a medicine. Today people prefer to reach out and consult the super specialist doctors and get all the tests done to their satisfaction before taking any medicine.

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  • Any word of advice to the young minds?

    All of us should do something for the society. It is not just a question of giving money. Besides, you have to always be positive. Despite my rigorous schedule, I have not suffered from cold or even fever on a single day. People are astonished to see the glow on my face. The only reason for my well being is the fact that I am a positive man. Try to have positive mind and everything will be taken care of. This has been own experience and experiment.

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  • Your achievements are truly awesome. What is the road ahead for you?

    My dream is to establish minimum one branch of KISS in every state and  may be in other countries. And as you have told in the beginning I have  also been working for Zero Poverty, Zero Hunger and Zero Illiteracy. I will continue with this mission till my last breath.

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  • How much influence does the Art of Living has in your journey?

    Whatever I have today it is due to the Art of Giving. Running KISS in such a huge way is the best example of Art of Giving. If I didn’t have that quality I would have amassed huge wealth only for myself rather than building institutions like KISS. Though I have created assets of more than 10,000 crore for KIIT, the media calls me the poorest MP in Rajya Sabha. The reason is that I have never taken a single pie for myself. This is the best example of Art of Giving that I have been practicing.

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  • Do you think the society will improve by the concept "Art of Giving"?

    Today Art of Giving has a vital role to play. In this age, people will never help anyone unless and until they have some self interest. In fact, my entire achievement I credit to this philosophy of Art of Giving. If you see my childhood story on YouTube you will find though I was born and brought up amidst severe poverty whatever I was earning from my hard work I was sharing with my friends for having tea or snacks. This quality of giving is part of my culture since I was a very young.

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  • Your unique philosophy of The Art of Giving has caught the imagination of the people. Could you elaborate on this exceptional credo of yours?

    Art of Giving is the philosophy of life aimed at spreading peace and happiness among the people across the globe. The concept is based on my own experience in childhood. Art of Giving does not cost anything to anybody. Its objective is just to spread peace and happiness to one and all. Art of Giving does not mean just to give money or wealth – it can be in any form. If I am telling some sweet words to you, it will definitely give you some happiness – that is the Art of Giving.

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  • Not only are you empowering and getting the tribal children into the mainstream, you are doing so much for the country. If these children excel in sports, India’s performance will improve to a significant an extent. After all, they have the DNA to shine. What are your thoughts on this?

    KISS has solved many problems. If 37,000 to 40,000 tribal children would not have been taken care of by KISS since 1992, 5000 tribal children would have become Naxalites, 5000 would have been trapped in human trafficking, 5000 would have probably died of malnutrition or succumbed to diseases. They would have become a liability for the  society, the state and the country. Now after being educated they have become assets. From tax consumers, they will soon become tax payers.

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  • You have been giving a lot of encouragement to budding sportspersons. Your thoughts on this.

    We have not only created huge sports infrastructure for our KISS children but have also produced approximately 500 sports persons who are in national and international teams in almost all the sports. That’s why I  keep telling that all that these children lack is opportunity. Once given a chance, they will excel in all fields whether academics or sports or innovation.

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  • You have achieved so much. Is this something closest to your heart?

    Yes, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology remains closest to my heart.

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  • KISS has found a place in the Limca Book of Records as well as the Guinness Book of World Records. Your feelings on this monumental achievement?

    Now the entire world salutes KISS. In its truest sense it is the largest and biggest institute for the tribals in the entire world. Guinness Book of World Records has already given the certificate and in the recent past it has become the first ever tribal university in the world exclusively for the tribal children.  It is also the first ever tribal university, which is fully free and residential.

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  • KISS, the fully free and fully residential tribal institute has become the largest of its kind in the world. It is home for 37,000 tribal children.  What was your inspiration?

    I had the bitterest experience of poverty and hunger – how they can kill a child. My slogan to the KISS Tribal children is – “Poverty kills illiteracy, literacy irradicates poverty”. The moment one is educated, the entire thing is taken care of. I am the best example of this to the entire world. If I had not been educated I wouldn’t have been sitting in front of you giving this interview. The greatest solution to fight poverty is through quality education. When I started KISS, I knew that one fourth of Odisha’s population is tribal and they are most neglected, deprived and marginalized. Well, 26 years ago nobody could have imagined that a tribal can be brought to the main stream through education. We all know that the tribals not only live in isolation in the dense jungles, they also do not value education. They also suffer from various fears that their kidneys and eyes would be removed and sold and their children would fall victim to trafficking.  At that time, a 26-year-old individual Achyuta Samanta, could take the step of bringing them from the dense forest and giving them a decent life in Bhubaneswar city.

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  • Possibly, this is the most famous and successful start up at least on Indian soil?

    It is the most successful start up, most successful example of entrepreneurship, most successful education work as well. People are describing my endeavour in so many ways.

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  • You started KIIT with a seed capital of Rs. 5000.  Today KIIT has grown into one of the most promising Universities and has earned worldwide fame. What was the journey like?

    After my tough childhood and youth I continued my master’s programme in Chemistry in Vani Vihar and then immediately I got a lectureship job in a Government aided college in Chemistry. During this period it was always in my mind to do something for the poor people of the society. So casually I started both the organizations – KIIT and KISS in a rented house in 1992-93. So in a sense it was a ‘start-up’ venture with a capital of just Rs. 5000.

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  • What kept you going during the tough times?

    My dream was to get into the mainstream through education. And this vision kept me on the right track. Even though I had no one to guide me I did not deviate from my path. All I had with me was my will power and the blessing of the almighty.

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  • You lost your father at the age of four and had to battle against the toughest of odds. Can you share with your years of struggle?

    My childhood has been a terrible ordeal of poverty and hunger. You can yourself imagine the struggle of a family with seven siblings and a widowed mother fighting for survival in a remote village in the Cuttack district of Odisha. My father, who was a petty worker, died in a train accident. I was four, my youngest sister only one month and my mother, the most beautiful lady I have ever seen, was just 39.  My father did not leave anything for us.  We used to do menial work and live in a place which was worse than a cow shed. We used to get barely two pieces of chapatti to eat in two days. And my mother did not have a spare sari to change after her bath. And today, due to the blessing of God, I have been able to provide millions of marginalized people food, clothing and shelter.

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  • Do you feel let down when you see the access to education does not occupy the public debate space?

    Yes, I feel extremely disappointed to see education not receiving adequate space in public debate forums. However, it is encouraging to note that the world leaders have now come to realize education as an important tool for global development as is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Governments world over, particularly the developing and the less-developed nations, are gearing up to address their education systems and have started laying great emphasis on inclusive and sustainable education and development strategy.

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  • What is the most satisfying aspect of your journey so far? 

    The most satisfying aspect of my journey is that I have been able to use education as the tool of personal, social, cultural development; economic empowerment; and creation of a large population of change agents for the deprived and marginalized communities. The model has been appreciated by world leaders, policy planners, Nobel Laureates, legal luminaries. KISS has become an eye opener. It is particularly very satisfying when KISS received Special Consultative Status from the United nations Organization.

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  • How much is the awareness among the youth and the general populace about the challenges public education faces in India?

    Coexistence of KISS and KIIT has been an excellent initiative to bridge the gap between the mainstream population and the underprivileged segments. This has facilitated building awareness of the mainstream youth about educational needs of the poor and the marginalized through mutual interaction between them on day-to-day basis. The social communication barrier has been melting and thereby allowing healthy exchange of ideas and cultural heritage. They have been serving as effective social integration model.

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  • What are your lifetime goals with respect to education and poverty eradication? 

    Holistic education is the only way to alleviate poverty and curbing trans generational progression poverty. Education is the only way to bridge the skills gap and to bring out their inherent talents. They need new skills at par with the mainstream population. My aim is to reach out all deprived and marginalized communities through KISS model replication. We are now on expansion mode. Already one branch of KISS is running successfully in New Delhi. We shall shortly be establishing 20 KISS branches in 20 districts of Odisha and one in each state.

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  • How much has the government assisted you in your efforts? 

    Well, right from the start we have not depended on any government funding. Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences was started as a protege of KIIT which has been majorly funding through its stakeholders. Occasionally private individuals also fund in small doses. We have the most transparent funding system.

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  • What is your assessment of the education system of India, where does it need improvement? Are the marginalized getting equal opportunity to quality education?

    India’s education system is one of the world’s oldest and largest and has been successfully contributing to the national and global knowledge pool. However, its impact in the rural areas and less privileged communities is not adequate due to various factors including lack of enabling environment and social, cultural and economic imbalances. We need to address these issues on top priority in order to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. The marginalized communities are deprived of adequate enabling infrastructure. Moreover, most of these children are first generation learner and therefore have a formidable resistance to learning. Most of the times language also becomes a barrier besides fooding, clothing, healthcare support and other amenities for wholesome learning and growth. The government schools are either non-existent or have no proper infrastructure. Moreover, these schools are not within easy reach. Poverty of these communities causes high dropout too. Lack of adequately qualified teachers further worsens the situation repelling children from the school.

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  • Yourself, you have come a long way in your life from humble beginnings, what are the values you embody ?

    Firstly, I believe that half education is far more dangerous than no education. Half-cooked knowledge really does not empower. Moreover, all are not born with similar talents. So, every child must get an opportunity to know his/her talents and educational institutes must provide opportunities for holistic learning. KISS uniquely blends vocational training, sports, and other extracurricular learning along with curricular studies. Result is for everybody to see as our children are not only making it to top national institutes for higher professional education on their own merit but also are making it to the World Olympics and other national and International sporting events; they are participating in various social programmes at national and international levels. At KISS we lay great emphasis on girl child education. At KISS, 60% of the student community comprise of girl children. By educating and economically empowering girl children we are ensuring education for generations thereafter besides ensuring proper healthcare and skills development in their homes. The third important philosophy is to provide a stimulating academic and enabling vibrant infrastructure so that these first generation learners stay stimulated and inspired towards holistic education, and progressive thinking. Our innovative Earn-while-you-learn has been able to arrest dropout to zero level and has a restrictive effect on the tribal children joining insurgent camps.

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  • What are the challenges faced?

    The biggest challenge we face today is funding creation of replicas of KISS to touch lives of millions of children still lying outside the realm of education.

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  • You vision is to ensure poverty does not stand in the way of one’s education, how much have succeeded?

    I started Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences as a sustainable model to ensure education for the most deprived segment of the population, the tribal. What started modestly in 1992 has grown into a mammoth institute today with 25,000 poorest-of-the-poor tribal receiving fully free holistic education from KG to PG along with free lodging, boarding, clothing and all other necessary amenities for all round development. Besides curricular education they are receiving vocational education and life skills training in order to grow up as fully empowered citizens. The institute has been successful in spreading economic empowerment and awareness among this community to taking education seriously. KISS has affected the lives of over a million people now. The KISS model is being emulated for other deprived and underprivileged communities too.

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