Prof. Achyuta Samanta, founder of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), Odisha, has been working relentlessly for Zero Poverty, Zero Hunger and Zero Illiteracy. He is the founder of the Art of Giving concept, which he has launched officially in 30 countries and in more than 210 places in India. This year the Art of Giving theme is “Pyaar Bhara Pack” or “Feeding with Love.” This will be celebrated in 500 places across the globe. In Odisha, 3 million people will be getting quality food on 17th May. Art of Giving will be reaching out to more than 5 to 7 million in the entire country and around the world on this day.
Ramendra Kumar got an opportunity to converse with Prof. Samanta on Rourkela Steel TV, the in-house cable TV network of Rourkela Steel Plant. Excerpts from the interview:
Prof. Achyuta Samanta needs no introduction – naam hi kaafi hai. He is a visionary, an iconic educationist, an epitome of humanism, a harbinger of social renaissance, an inspirational speaker and a messiah for the marginalised. His passion is to spread smiles and his mission is to bring happiness.
Ramendra Kumar (RK): Prof. Samanta, you lost your father at the age of four and had to battle against the toughest of odds. Could you share with our viewers, your years of struggle?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: Sir, what kept you going?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: You are saying that you are the means used by the Lord to reach out to these millions.
Prof. Samanta: After coming to know my childhood story which is full of struggle even those who do not believe in God start developing faith in the almighty.
Hon’bl Home Minister of India, Mr. Rajnath Singh in his address at KISS said, “Shri Achyuta Samanta seems to be a messenger of the almighty working here in the form of a human being. I have never seen such type of a person or such type of work in my life though I have travelled the entire globe.” This is the general comment of each and every VVIP visiting KIIT & KISS.
That is why I say that whatever I have achieved is only through His blessing, I am only an instrument or medium to implement his desire.
RK: 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?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: Possibly, this is the most famous and successful start up at least on Indian soil?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: 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?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: 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?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: Sir, you have achieved so much. Is this something closest to your heart?
Prof. Samanta: Yes, KISS remains closest to my heart.
RK: I get the feeling when I hear you speak that there is a kind of passion, a kind of connect that you share with our tribal brothers and sisters.
Prof. Samanta: 12,000 tribal girls and boys have already passed out (of KISS). Another 27,000 are now pursuing their education. What I have given them is not merely food, clothes and shelter. I have given them quality education which has transformed their lives.
RK: You have been giving a lot of encouragement to budding sportspersons. Your thoughts on this.
Prof. Samanta: 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.
RK: Sir, I would like to add another dimension to it. 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.
Prof. Samanta: You are right. 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.
RK: Your unique philosophy of The Art of Giving has caught the imagination of the people. Could you elaborate on this exceptional credo of yours?
Prof. Samanta: 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.
I have officially launched this concept in more than 30 countries and in more than 210 places in India. This year the Art of Giving theme is “Pyaar Bhara Pack” or “Feeding with Love.” This will be celebrated in 500 places across the globe. In Odisha, 3 million people will be getting quality food on 17th May. Besides, we will be reaching out to more than 5 to 7 million in the entire country and around the world on this day. Please understand that people will contribute, people will participate and people will enjoy.
RK: You put it very beautifully. You said somewhere that “One should give to live and live to give.” In just one sentence you have summed up the entire credo of Art of Giving. And if this is internalized, I think the society will improve so much, especially in today’s context when everyone has become so very materialistic.
Prof. Samanta: Yes, 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.
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.
RK: You have been conferred with 37 Honoris Causa Doctorate degrees; you have been awarded the Guisee Peace Prize International, the highest civilian award from Bahrain; you have won over 50 national and international awards and over 200 state honours and accolades; you have been conferred the national award for the welfare of the children in 2016 by the Honourable President of India, you have been honoured with the first ever Kautilya Award by Indian Economic Association and you are now the Rajya Sabha member from BJD. Your achievements are truly awesome. What is the road ahead for you sir?
Prof. Samanta: I have been expanding the activities of KISS in 20 tribal districts of Odisha. 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.
Ramendra Kumar: Your words of advice to our readers.
Prof. Samanta: 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. I have been working for 18 hours a day for last 26 years without taking a single day break for pleasure or rest. 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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