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  KIIT University

Think about a small boy without food for days together; think about the helplessness of a mother not being able to arrange something for seven hungry stomachs and think about the situation in a family without anything substantial to keep it alive. Anybody would shudder to think about such a plight of a family having so much poverty around. Like diamonds coming out from dark coal mines, the small boy of yesteryears has become the jewel in the crown of humanity. In a world where material wealth determines the voice of the people and where money speaks louder, a young man's attempt to call on the people to listen beyond their own prejudices, beliefs, prerogatives and convenience must seem to be a tirade against the mighty and brutal diktat of a crippled society. The feeble tone of a small child would have lost in the melee but the melancholy through his mellifluous voice created a megaton inside his skinny exterior. The child, despite being born poor in an obscure village in Odisha, one of the poorest states of India, shaped himself to be the role model for many wealthy persons.

The young man Achyuta Samanta never ever forgot his nightmares, his shattered childhood and his bitter experiences of neglect because of the untimely tragic demise of his father, a small time worker in a steel plant, in an accident when he was only four. After this tragedy, poverty was written everywhere on the walls. Neither he had a decent pair of dress, nor his mother a spare saree to dress up for any social event. All that the family had was the money the company gave them after his father's death. The money just vanished with the marriage of the eldest daughter of the family, then there was a big vacuum for each one of the family.

Words can never explain poverty, nor is there any other means to explain how it feels being poor. Most are broken by it, though only few leave their footprints on the sand of time to be emulated by millions. With only some odd jobs Samanta's mother was trying desperately to keep the family going, while Samanta, still baby-sitting his little sister, continued to pretend having food without having taken it. Samanta's little palms were not tired wiping his moist eyes in some remote corner of his house, nor did he ever complain about his discomfort.

Adversities sometimes make people strong enough to combat difficulties. Acute poverty did not allow Samanta's mother to burn kerosene for his study lessons. In absence of kerosene, there was no study at night. It was difficult to keep pace with the lessons hence before the examination; Samanta had to stay in the Headmaster's house for some days to make up the lost grounds. The result used to be a high percentage of marks because determination to win over adversities made Samanta to forge ahead. From the village school to a high school sixteen kms. away was not easy to commute everyday. He volunteered to carry someone in a bicycle, for he had no cycle of his own to go to the school. Most of the time, he had to wake up early to walk down that distance.

He was thinking all the way how poverty and hunger could be eradicated but he had no answer then, nor did he have the means to address these issues. It was the habit of walking that distance helped him later in covering almost 30 kms. a day in the most difficult period of 1992 - 94, still struggling to shape up his dreams. It was sheer madness for anybody to cover almost 200 kms daily in a bike to contact, to be refused and humiliated by people. But the 'thick skinned' young adult through this humiliation could see the world from a very close quarter. Running from pillar to post without a full stomach perhaps kept the hunger inside him burning. The hunger for seeing a better world sans poverty, the hunger for transforming the society and the hunger for bringing a little cheer to the faces of thousand mothers who were bleeding inside yet putting up a brave face before their children.

Success comes with determination, strong will-power and selfless dedication for a cause. Against all odds, he not only went on to pass M.Sc. in first class, but also got a Lecturer's job even before the publication of his final result. He could have led a relatively comfortable life in this job, but destiny had different plans for him. He dreamed of a society where no one would ever cry out of desperation for not being able to achieve anything in life because of poverty. He embarked in pursuit of that dream in 1992. A paltry sum of US $100 from his savings was all that he had. With the help of some like-minded friends and guidance of an elderly person, he ventured out to walk the path, angels feared to tread. The tremendous will-power, the self-confidence and the unquestionable integrity for a cause made him to give up the teaching job in the college and to work for the society.

He made a beginning by setting up Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT). What was just a modest beginning way back in 1992 has now grown substantially to be one of the finest universities of the country. However, for him this success was merely a means to an end - to create a level playing field for the most neglected and underprivileged section of our society. He strongly believed that hunger, malnutrition, ignorance of resource utilization and exploitation can be successfully dealt with empowerment through education and provision for sustainability. His conviction that 'illiteracy causes poverty and literacy drives it away' made him to establish 'Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). He founded KIIT but he did not enjoy the opulence rather he used the money to keep KISS going and going the way, he once envisaged. The small school with just 125 tribal children in 1993 has now grown into the largest free residential institution for the tribal children in the world.

With age in his side Samanta, now in his forties has vowed to work for another few decades or at least till he is physically fit for the tribals and the down trodden in the society. His life from penury to opulence for others makes him an inimitable human being. He has many more plans up to his sleeves, which he would translate before 'he sleeps', for he has 'miles to go'.