Civil services examinations often require years of preparations and multiple attempts by candidates to crack and have abysmal success rates. This is more difficult for people battling disability, but with sheer determination and hard work, one can break the comfort zone and achieve the goal.
This is the story of Mr Sanyasi Behera who is visually impaired but it did not deter him to crack the State Administrative Service examination of Odisha. Mr Md Imran Ali met Sanyasi Behera and shared his experience of the meet through social media.
Here is what he wrote:
I had a special interaction with Mr Sanyasi Behera who is visually impaired, but this did not deter him to crack State Administrative Service of Odisha. With outshining victory, he created a historic gateway for all differently-abled people in the state.
A few days back, the news channels in Odisha were flooded with the news of a visually impaired person cracking State Administrative Service which intrigued me and since I knew Sanyasi Bhai much before, I decided to meet him. He is an inspiration for all those battling disability. Apart from this, he is a renowned Social Activist in Odisha who has championed many human rights issues of the state relating to disabilities.
After listening about this historic achievement of this inspiring personality, I rushed to him to have a discussion on his journey of life. I entered his house which is in a slum of Bhubaneswar in Saheed Nagar; I saw a girl teaching small children of the same slum. She introduced herself as the daughter of Mr Sanyasi and told me that she studies in intermediate. I asked her if she is also passionate about Indian Administrative Service. To which she replied that she wants to be a judge so that she can provide justice to underprivileged and harassed people of the society. This rendered me speechless. Mr Sanyasi also entered the room and greeted us. Mona Lisa, Sradha and I started talking to him about his journey.
He started, “My name is Sanyasi Behera and I am from Gania, Nayagarh of Odisha. Since I was blind from birth and came from a farmer’s family, I experienced very tough life all through.”
Gania’s eyes flooded with tears. After few minutes, his thrilling voice turned into a voice of radical social activist. He continued “From very childhood not only I struggled in poverty but also social stigma and comments from every corner of the society, I have listened people talking that “blindness is the cost of sins of earlier life.”
Sanyasi also mentioned that people would comment that it was better to feed the animals of the zoo with the flesh of blind people rather raising them. He also mentioned blindness is linked to poverty, starvation and malnutrition but here it was linked to sins of past life. It was very difficult to get a square of meal a day during early childhood and never had a chance to study in school until the age of six.
Mr Sanyasi started narrating the journey of struggle. “I was at the age of six; there was a programme at our village, a minister had come to our village, I read a poem in the function, the minister got mesmerised with my poetic skills and insisted my family enrol me in Bhima Bhoi School for Blind in Bhubaneswar. This was the turning point of my life.”
Morning shows the day, here a small boy of school started reacting against injustices done to the unfortunate kids in the Blind school. The expenditure spent for the students was less than the amount spent for the inmates of jails. This small boy Sanyasi met the authorities in the state Secretariat and demanded to increase the amount. However, the authority responded that “why to spend before monkey”?? After being treated as a monkey, Sanyasi was not broken rather rushed to the Chief Minister of Odisha with the genuine demands who increased the amount being convinced by Sanyasi.
Likewise, he completed his matriculation, graduation, Diploma in Office Management, different pieces of training on advocacy. In between, he started working with a voluntary organisation Named Society For Weaker Sections at Bhadrak for the welfare of people with disabilities. Meanwhile, the country got a social legislation meant for people with disabilities in 1995. This legislation recognised the human rights of people with disabilities in the country. Now, Sanyasi started awareness on the spirit of this social legislation among the target groups. To his credit, a school for visually challenged girls emerged in the state of Odisha and also started counselling services to the people with disabilities in the office of the Collector of Bhadrak, Odisha.
The journey did not stop here; he started intervening in safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities across Odisha. Till date, he has fought more than 200 cases of human rights violations of this community in different courts and commissions in Odisha. Many times, he moved to the State High Court and won the legal battles for the people with blindness and other disabilities. In some cases, he also brought the attention of the President of India and provided justice to the victims of rape and other atrocities. He had also challenged the different District Magistrates, other bureaucrats of the state whenever he found any injustices done to the visually, mentally or physically challenged people.
To his biggest credit, he brought a historic change in aspirations of people with disabilities for state administrative services. The Odisha State Public Service Commission did not allow the visually and physically challenged people to sit in the examinations (Odisha Administrative Service). Now, Mr Sanyasi moved from State Administrative Tribunal to Odisha High Court, challenging the injustices to the aspiring candidates from the people with disabilities. Finally, he came with flying colours; the State High Court gave clear verdict to include the people with disabilities in civil services examinations. Now, physically challenged people except visually were given a chance.
This issue was again challenged to the State Commission for disabilities by Mr Sanyasi, and he got the clear winning verdict in 2015. Mr Sanyasi also appeared in the administrative service examination and outshined. This time 17 people with disabilities got into state administrative service, and Sanyasi Babu stood topper amongst them. He thanked his wife and daughter for helping in reading for him. Similarly, he thanked the young people Monalisa, Manisha, Sobhan and Bhagya for becoming a writer in the examination hall.
Mr Sanyasi has also initiated a voluntary organisation named ISWAR for the welfare activities of the people with disabilities. He is the ray of hope, inspiration and blessing for all people with disabilities. My heartfelt salute to his dedication, conviction and struggle.
Md. Imran Ali