COVID-19 crisis has overturned our lives, exposing us to deal with myriad emotions all at the same time. There is anxiety, there is fear, there is apprehension, there is grief, there is confusion, there is chaos, there is anger and there is hope that we will 'build back better'.
This unprecedented crisis has brought us to a centre stage that seems to be beyond our comprehension and understanding. But, it has also provided us with an avenue to express gratitude, compassion, and empathy towards those who are at the margins.
As it is said that you can never understand someone unless you are in their shoes; my tryst with life at the age of 4, when I lost my father and was brought up by my mother along with 6 other siblings facing extreme poverty and hardship, has made me realise today what being in the margin feels like. In the present COVID-19 pandemic scenario, when we are all overwhelmed with the situation, helping others has provided me with a sense of control, stability, and comfort.
As the founder of KIIT Group of Institutions (KIIT University, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), KIIT International School and Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences) and Member of Parliament (MP), we have extended our services to the most vulnerable and marginalized. We have also collaborated with the State Government to assist them in relief, rehabilitation, and other varied aspects.
Broadly, the goal that KISS Foundation and KIIT are marching ahead for is based on the broader objectives of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Leaving no one behind, to provide relief material and other necessities to homeless, stranded migrants, slum dwellers, daily wagers, transgenders, beggars, and animals on the street, frontline workers, and other vulnerable people. It is putting forth to the government, the needs of the poor and indigenous communities.
Mobilizing adequate and well-directed financing, reaching out to good samaritans, corporate houses, national and international organizations, KIIT and KISS has diversified work and mobilised financial and human resources for relief to the needy, distribution of hygiene products to women and girls, IEC material for wider dissemination (including in local and tribal languages) and setting up quarantine facilities and dedicated COVID-19 hospitals by utilizing the existing infrastructure facilities. In partnership with Government, needs and requirements of people are being identified and feedback loop to the government for action has been established.
Strengthening institutions for integrated solutions and effective implementation, KIIT and KISS are working with the state government and local self-government institutions (urban and rural) to find solutions for the present crisis. Apart from enabling the state government to utilize our existing infrastructure, both these educational institutions have bolstered local action by utilizing staff and students as a volunteer force across Odisha. In this process, strong communication packages are being implemented to reach the most vulnerable.
Harnessing science, technology, and innovation, the science and technology hub is devising innovative and sustainable solutions and influencing government strategies. Research partnerships with Universities of Cambridge and East Anglia are now focused on food futures by using volunteers and IVRS platform for benefit of indigenous communities.
Some of the activities undertaken to meet the above goals are:
1. India's first standalone COVID Hospital with 500 beds and 50 critical care units at Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) is operational and the patients are being treated in KIMS. This COVID Hospital is functioning from a block of KIMS with a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, paramedics and housekeeping staff.
2. KISS satellite schools that have been set-up in the districts of Bolangir and Mayurbhanj in Odisha today functions as COVID hospital and quarantine centres for the people of the district. Another COVID hospital has been set up in Kandhamal district that is my parliamentary constituency. These are 200 bedded hospitals managed by Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS).
Care with a humane touch
1.KIIT and KISS have adopted two old age homes in Chandragiri – a Tibetan settlement area in Odisha. One month supply to the Tibetan population in Chandragiri and Padmasambhava monastery in Jiranga has been provided. KIMS is also supporting a hospital in Jiranga and has provided PPE to the health workers.
2. Feminine hygiene products are being distributed to women and girls covering all the districts.
3. KISS is delivering dry food items and groceries along with the books of the new academic year to all the 30,000 students at their doorsteps.
4. KIIT and KISS have been actively taking care of stray animals by providing food during the entire lockdown period.
5. More than 40 orphanages and old age homes in Kandhamal are provided with food materials and cash to sustain during these trying times.
Awareness and information dissemination
Students of KISS and volunteers are creating awareness and disseminating information on Social Distancing, washing hands, and respiratory hygiene in their respective districts. 500 volunteers are involved in covering 220 villages in aspirational districts of Rayagada, Koraput, and Malkangiri. They are also helping the state government in monitoring and administering Quarantine Centres in 6 aspirational districts.
1. Online classes and examinations are being conducted across all centres and schools of the institute covering approximately 30,000 children. For students of KISS, amongst some who live in the most backward areas of the state, education through WhatsApp was being conducted. Now, an attempt is being made to reach out to them through television channels.
2. Tele counselling cell has been set up to provide support for the people experiencing stress during trying times.
3. KIIT-Technology Business Incubator (KIIT-TBI) is recognized as a Centre for Augmenting War with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH) under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), GoI, along with similar institutes from IITs and other eminent Universities in India. KIIT-TBI is responsible for implementing this program in East & NE.
Coordination and collaboration
1.KIIT and KISS are working with the Government of Odisha to provide support in the form of all its available resources - logistics, infrastructure, healthcare, human resources etc in its various activities at grassroots.
2. KISS is also working closely with the American Embassy in the repatriation of American and Indian American personnel who have been stuck in Odisha and other adjoining areas.
3. Conducting a survey on behalf of UNDP India on migrant labour for policy-level change
The way forward for me is to a) deepen and broaden work in all the above areas with greater emphasis on public-private-community partnerships; b) collaborate more to raise resources and awareness, c) adopt new technologies to understand the needs of people and communities and produce solutions to Build Back Better!!
It's "compassionate leadership" that has helped me move ahead to cater to those in need at this time of crisis. Gratitude, empathy, and compassion have been my strongholds and I refocus my energies and inspire others to be more compassionate towards other fellow beings and all those who are in need of help during this crisis.
Also Read: COVID Crisis Calls For Businesses To Don New 'Warrior Avatar', Rebuild Society Once Pandemic Recedes