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A decade gone by : Looking Back to Look Forward

A decade gone by : Looking Back to Look Forward

At the turn of this decade, I stand at the cusp of exponential growth, unending struggles and even some disheartening lows to usher in 2020, a year that Nostradamus foresaw as the beginning of a new era, a favourable sacred moment and at the same time, dangerous to the history of mankind, meant to bring both disasters and revelations. Many philosophers predict it as a critical year signifying a fundamental transformation of the world we live in, a rebirth of humankind on a new spiritual level. Some astrologers see it as a numerological important year.

I welcome 2020 with positivity and enthusiasm. Plenty of memories to hold on and blessings to count on. Wishing all a Happy New Year.

As I sit down to think about 2020 that will begin tomorrow, I feel as though 2010 was just yesterday and the decade has gone by at a very fast pace. Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) have grown multifold in scale and position, achieved glory and are well recognised within the country and globally. Personally, I have also accomplished some impossible tasks and moved in a focussed way towards my mission without being defeated by any struggle or obstacles, learning lessons and standing tall to face any hardships collectively with the staff, students and well-wishers of KIIT and KISS who have supported me physically, mentally and psychologically. 

KIIT has achieved many milestones and one such achievements that is marked in the history of KIIT is being conferred with the “Institution of Eminence” tag by the Government of India. Starting modestly with 2 teachers and 12 students in a rented apartment to becoming what it is today, KIIT has come a long way, more so in the last decade. It has a plethora of achievements and accomplishments in very little time, breaking all stereotypes of businesses and presenting a successful model of compassion and humanity. It has embarked on a path of progress which most of the most famous universities built by the efforts of a single individual and team, may not even have visualised. It has set an example for Universities when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility.

KISS has been declared as a University in 2016 by the Ministry of Human Rights Development, Government of India becoming the first exclusive tribal university in India. From an idea to revolution, KISS is the shining template for achieving equity and excellence. The model has proved immensely successful in empowering tribal students, not by proselytising them but through indigenous education. The alumni of KISS, almost 20,000 in number are now in respectable positions in corporate and community leadership. At the least, they are aware of their rights and have the voice to protect their culture and their right to live a life of dignity – fiercely independent to lead and learn without fear.

Impressed by my dedicated work towards the development of tribals and development of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik, Hon’ble CM of Odisha requested me to join his party and become an elected member of Rajya Sabha in 2018. I also became an elected member of Lok Sabha in 2019 from Kandhamal Parliamentary constituency by the love and affection of the people of Kandhamal and blessing of Hon’ble CM. I aim to work dedicatedly for the task entrusted upon me as the Parliamentarian and leader of Kandhamal focussing on the core areas of education, health, unemployment, industries and tourism. 

Initially, people questioned me, didn’t believe in what I envisioned and called me mad behind my back and overambitious on my face. I was building a story and was single-minded about going from strength to strength. Last decade, people, organizations, universities, even the House of Lord’s invited me to share my story. One of the high points of this experience of sharing my story happened at Kaun Banega Crorepati, a TV Show on Sony Entertainment Channel that showcased my life story. People had heard about me, but not in specifics. For them, KBC was an eye opener. Those who knew me well, heard some previously unheard stories, those who had heard about me, got to learn more about me, and those who were strangers started and continue coming to me for selfies.

Just as there were successes, there were setbacks as well. I have faced a a lot of struggles and difficulties. Hosting Indian Science Congress with 22000 delegates at KIIT University in 2012 taught me many lessons. A few people were bent on not allowing me to successfully host the Congress by putting all government and institutional pressure to harass me. They filed a PIL, and till the eleventh hour, tried everything in their power, not to allow me host the Congress, which by protocol is graced by the Prime Minister of India and President.  I am not going into the details. This is the least I can mention now. I will do a complete write up on it in my autobiography of the pressures and difficulties and challenges I faced each and every moment.  We won every case filed and surpassed every preceding Congress. The then PM, Shri Manmohan Singh called it flawless and fabulous. I had to overcome many difficulties to make all my people enjoy the fruits of success. The more they tried to pull me down, I came back stronger.

The loss of my mother is the greatest personal loss. She is the inspiration and energy behind all that I am today. She is the one who brought up all siblings single-handed after losing her husband at the age of 40. She left me on the 2nd of August, 2017. I still mourn her death, deep in my heart.I have survived two accidents in the last decade. On the 4th of February, 2016  I was in a car accident where my hand got fractured. I escaped this major accident by God’s grace and prayers of my students and staff. On the 9th of September, 2018 I suffered a spinal injury which forced me into a bed rest for three months but I continued to work to the best of my abilities. No breaks allowed in this cause.

There are ups and downs in my life but God has blessed me to overcome the tough times and continue serving people till date. I still live alone, a simple and modest life, as always. I am hopeful to continue contributing more to society in the next decade, with God’s grace and the love of my people.