By Diane Adachi
Nothing can replace the goodwill and genuine interest that face to face interactions can create through these delegation visits to other countries. Debutta Dash and Habib Habib, co-founders of the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee (WASITRAC), have worked tirelessly for nearly three years on this visit.
Sign at KITT provides warm welcome to WASITRAC
delegation. (Photos by Diane Adachi)
Having Washington’s Congressman Jim McDermott join the mission has also provided great substance and interest as the visit to Orissa--now called Odisha--is his 22nd visit to India. As a result, he is quite a recognized and beloved friend to this nation. In fact, Congressman McDermott had strongly recommended visiting Odisha, a little known state among the 28 states in India, though the ninth largest in terms of geographic area and the eleventh largest in terms of population.
Odisha is rich in its natural resources and human resources. It is amazing how Odisha is rising to the challenge and how many that we met on this trip are motivated by the poverty they encountered in their childhood. Odisha has some distinct possibilities and similarities of interests to Seattle and Washington state.
Congressman Jim McDermott, left, and Lt. Governor Owen inspect
items for sale at a local market.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is focusing on education as much as business and trade to develop the state's infrastructure for the future. Odisha has a vital but underdeveloped coastline and is building its education and research institutions to further support plans for infrastructure and urban planning. As Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister for Education and Human Resource Development and also Minister of Science and Technology, stated in a recent roundtable discussion with higher education leaders: “We need systems for global health, education and economic development.” Hence the reason why human resource development is the umbrella in which education resides.
Tribal children gather for the delegation at the Kalinga Institute
of Social Sciences (KISS).
On Sunday, November 15 we met with Dr. Achyuta Samanta, a man dedicated to creating a greater public good and a better life for the communities of Odisha. Seeing is believing,and it is hard to imagine that Dr. Samanta, who had a very poverty-stricken childhood, could have emerged to receive his masters in chemistry then found the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology and Science (KIITS) and Kalinga Institute of Social Science (KISS).
Dr. Samanta started with just $100 in savings to found what at first started as a technical training center in 1992 to what is now a robust campus for 15,000 full-time residential students with over 40 academic programs and 23 colleges, schools and departments. The impressive campus, accredited as a Deemed University since 2004, is located on 400 acres of land area and has a township of over 700 faculty, scientists and researchers in residence.
There are over 50 labs with 34 research and development projects underway and it is among India’s top 15 engineering institutes. Included among these rankings are the famous IITs and NITs (Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institutes of Technology). However, it is Dr. Samanta’s childhood memories of struggle and poverty that have become the foundation for creating a better life for the often disregarded communities of tribal children.
|Dr. Achyuta Samanta|
In 1993, Dr. Samanta began his plans for creating KISS, a free residential home for educating tribal children that grew from supporting 125 tribal children to 12,000 tribal students, simultaneously building both institutions to the impressive goal it has reached today.
Responding to and basing KISS’s objectives on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, Dr. Samanta strives to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; provide universal education from primary through university studies; reduce child mortality; promote gender equality and empower young girls in their future opportunities. He is a social entrepreneur that will help tribal communities to improve maternal healthcare, combat infectious diseases and strive towards environmental sustainability. KISS is now the largest school for tribal children in Asia.
Dr. Samanta’s goal is have these children as they grow to young educated adults return to their communities and help improve living conditions and opportunities for education in their respective villages. For Odisha, this will make a large impact for the state and India as indigenous people account for 8.2 percent of India’s population and 25 percent of the population of Odisha, where many of the tribal communities live in isolation and in difficult geographic terrain.
Professor Ashok Kolaskar, former advisor to the National Knowledge Commission of India, an advisory council to the Prime Minister and now vice chancellor of KIIT University states: “I came to KIIT because I felt I could make a big difference here compared to other more developed parts of India. Odisha is ripe for development and through education we have a chance to improve the lives of many here in the State.”
Dr. Samanta is planning to visit the UW this January and meet with various scholars and researchers about the study of indigenous populations and how the UW works on medical research and partnerships for Native Health, cultural preservation and tribal capacity-building. He also hopes to plan site visits to tribal communities and meet with local tribal leaders in the State of Washington.
(Diane Y. Adachi is assistant vice president and special assistant to the Provost for International Relations and Protocols at the University of Washington).