The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and devastated the normal life and livelihood of people all over the world. Odisha, too, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Many organizations and individuals have come forward to supplement the government’s efforts to deal with the emergent situation. The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), Bhubaneswar, and its sister institution, the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), under the leadership of its Founder Prof. Achyuta Samanta, have also taken a series of initiatives right from the outbreak of the disease and have been at the forefront of Odisha’s war against the coronavirus.
Some humanitarian actions of KIIT and KISS stand out as they have significantly bolstered the healthcare infrastructure of the state, greatly reduced the suffering of people and touched the lives of the most marginalised and overlooked sections. In one of the most significant measures in Odisha’s war against Covid-19, the Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), a constituent of KIIT Deemed to be University, set up four ultramodern dedicated Covid hospitals with the support of the Government of Odisha, located in Bhubaneswar and three tribal-dominated districts of Odisha. The hospitals have a combined bed capacity of 1200. KIMS Covid Hospital in Bhubaneswar, a 500-bedded state-of-the-art facility including 50 critical care beds, is India’s first standalone Covid hospital. The quick turnaround time in setting up the Covid Hospitals has saved thousands of lives.
KIIT and KISS reached out to various groups facing hardship due to the extended lockdown. The intervention included the distribution of food materials and other essentials to over 3 lakh pandemic-hit people, including the disadvantaged people living in various slums, stranded migrant labourers, who were also provided temporary shelter, and people living in the containment zones.
Community outreach activities of KIIT and KISS strived to reach the hardest-hit and commonly overlooked people —transgenders, sportspersons, physically challenged, sex workers, etc. They were provided with allowances to cope with the prolonged lockdown. Food materials and cash to meet other expenses for three months were given to priests and other workers of several spiritual centres in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri and nearby towns. The two institutions are providing groceries and cash for miscellaneous expenses to over 40 orphanages, old age homes and leprosy centres in Kandhamal district. KISS is home for 30,000 tribal students from interior districts of Odisha pursuing their studies from Standard-I to PG/Ph.D. level. Days before the outbreak of the pandemic, they were sent to their respective homes in various districts of Odisha. As the students are in their respective homes, KISS has been sending study materials, dress and generous amount of dry foods at the doorsteps every month since April. The monthly materials also contain sanitary napkins for the adolescent girl students. This will continue until reopening of KISS. KISS has taken a series of measures to keep its students safe and healthy as well as ensuring that they remain connected to the studies. Prof. Samanta arranged for the textbooks, study materials and dried food items to be provided at the students’ doorsteps at the start of the new academic year. KISS was one of the early institutes to begin online classes and has been maintaining the academic schedule for students of all levels. Inspired by the Prime Minister’s call for “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, KISS has revved up its vocational skill centre during the Covid-19 pandemic. The centre has been scaled up to become a medium-size industry and is now making 25 different types of vocational products. These products are marketed through well developed distribution channel, besides fulfilling the in-house requirements of KIIT and KISS. The sale proceeds from the centre are expected to make KISS self-reliant in the coming years. KIIT has decided to provide free education to the children of the Covid deceased in Odisha. The facility will be available for 2020-21 and 2021-22. The first six months of the pandemic have made many children orphans. Such children, particularly those from the poorer sections, are vulnerable to become victims of child abuse and human trafficking. KIIT and KISS have adopted and are taking care of about 100 such orphans and providing them monthly allowance from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000, depending upon the family size. As and when the academic institutions reopen, they will be provided with free education and subsequently complete higher education in KIIT and KISS. Support to orphans and children of the Covid-deceased has been possible due to its Founder, Prof. Achyuta Samanta’s personal childhood experience of hunger and poverty that he had to suffer after he lost his father at the tender age of four.
He has always been striving to ensure that no child is deprived of quality education because of untimely death of parents or poverty.