India: Role of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences,KISS in breaking the cycle of Poverty

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My Journey…. Madhab Kemprai

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”–––––Chinese proverb.

My name is Madhab Kemprai. I am 29 years old. I hail from one of the remotest regions of Assam called Dhansiri in Karbi Anglong District. The region still faces the issues of electricity and proper road transport. Particularly, the road connecting Diphu to Dhansiri is pathetic (Diphu is the nearest town and also the headquarter of the district).

We are three members in our family mother, younger brother and me. I lost my father when I was 7 years old in 1997. By profession, my father was a petition writer in the Notary office. We do not have any agriculture farming land but only half bigha of homestead land. Therefore, the sudden demise of my father due to heart attack has given our family, specifically my mother both emotional and economic shocks, pushing us in the rim of absolute poverty. As a result, she had to struggle a lot to earn a living and to feed her three children (my youngest brother was at the breastfeeding stage). Being a single mother, she had to look for both household activities and earning income for the family. So, because of the difficulty to manage financial, emotional and household activities, she was compelled to leave her small baby in our grandpa’s home (50 Km away from our village). During the initial years, we hardly could meet our two squares of meals. There were several days when we used to eat just cooked rice along with water and salt without any vegetable. There had been several instances when she had to beg and borrow rice from neighbours and nearby villages just to keep us alive. But gradually after a year or two, she started selling vegetables in the nearby local haat. Along with her we brothers used to accompany her in selling vegetable. This vegetable business at least helped us to survive and somehow, we were able to manage our ends meet.

In terms of education, when my father passed away, I was in standard 1 (One) in one of the private schools of our region, two of my younger brothers had not even enrolled by then. I still remember vividly the day when the principal of my school told my mother that I could no longer study in that school just because my mother could not arrange an amount of Rs. 2000/- (Two thousand only) to pay my school dues. Then she admitted me in one of the government schools of our region (approx. 5 km away from my home). Then after a year or two, my younger brother joined me and we completed our primary and upper primary education in that particular govt. school. During those years, every winter particularly after the end of each final year exam, we brothers used to sell oranges on the roadside of the local market to earn some money and save for admission fees for the next session. Likewise, days and then years passed by, everything was going normal until another event devastated our family.

In the year 2005, there was an ethnic clash between two tribes of Karbi Anglong. I belong to one of the two. In one of the midnights of those dark days, when three of us were sleeping in our home, a group of some unidentified persons knocked on our door and were asking my mother to open the door. Unlike me and my brother, my mother was aware of the ethnic war and so obviously she didn’t open the door. But since they did not get any positive response, they started hammering the door and was trying to break in. Meanwhile, mother woke both of us up from sleep and we all three sneaked from the back door to save ourselves from being butchered by those militants. That night we escaped somehow by walking almost through 10 km distance in the dark along the paddy field, people’s private property and took refuge in one of my mother’s friend house in the town. The next day we boarded a passenger train and went to our maternal Grandpa’s home from where later we went to the relief camp set up by the Government for the conflict victim families. We lived in the relief camp for almost 4 months until the conflict situation got normalised. When we were in the relief camp, we got the news that our home was burnt and destroyed by some unidentified goons. Therefore, soon after the government withdrew the relief camp, like several other victim families, we too were hopeless and homeless wandering where to go now and what to do. However, by God’s grace, somehow, we could get a piece of land under forest land which was meant for resettlement and rehabilitation for all those who are affected by that ethnic conflict. So, this forest area is where we stay now and made a village called Dimaidi around 30 Km away from our previous home. Settling in the new place without having any capital, my mother again struggled to sustain our livelihood. Nevertheless, thanks to the forest from where we used to collect woods and sell in the market to support our living until I completed my matric board exam in 2008. This time our family was of four members, my youngest brother who was left in the grandpa’s home has re-joined us. Unfortunately, we lost him at a very young age. He was suffering from Jaundice but he died not because of the disease but due to poverty. During the time of emergency, we could not even arrange a minimum amount of money for his timely treatment.

After passing class 10, I joined in +2 science in Diphu govt. college which is 27 km away from my home. There I had rented a room and used to worry more for the food and house rent expenses rather than focussing in studies. To meet my expenditures and to be able to pay my rent, I used to teach some school kids as a tutor. Such a situation has affected my academic performance. After passing 12, I had to drop out and I was planning to engage in any income-earning activities to support my family. Then suddenly I was informed by Vivek da (then President of our All Assam Dimasa Student Union) about the KISS which has given a different direction to my future and completely transformed my life. So, I am ever grateful to Vivek da because of whom I got into KISS. KISS has not only changed my life but my younger brother too. Just like me, after passing class 10, he too had lost hope from education and left for Chennai to work in some factory. But while I was going through the admission process in KISS, I immediately called him to KISS convincing him that he too can now continue his education. Though he was reluctant after two days he arrived at KISS. In KISS, I have done B.Sc. computer Science (2011-2014) and my brother did +2 Science (2011-2013). From here in KISS both of our life transformed and so is our family for which my entire family is ever grateful to Dr Achutya Samanta and KISS as a whole. My brother after completing +2 science from KISS, he cleared the medical competitive exam and got admitted into MBBS course in one of the government medical colleges of Assam. As of now, he is about to complete his MBBS degree and doing an internship in the same Medical College where he studied. So, I am happy to say that after coming across so many adversaries in life, both me and my brother could get proper education only and only because of KISS. In fact, like many other tribal students in KISS, both of us are also the first 10th passed from our family. Even today, particularly in India, for several families and children like us to get higher education is still a far dream. Therefore, according to me, KISS is not just an education institution but a lifeline for those marginalised communities.

Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) is a pride of not only Odisha but the entire country. Before joining KISS, I have had the experience of studying only in a Government college and school. But after joining KISS, I could ask nothing more from God. There were regular classes, unlike my previous govt. college. There was a library for its students with plenty of books along with monthly journals and newspapers. I also enjoyed food provided by KISS. The food in KISS is prepared in a large steamed automatic kitchen based on proper hygiene and also takes care of the nutrient requirements for its students. I don’t know if KISS still provides rice and Dalma (dal+pumkin+carrot+cabbage+potato all in a single item) but I still miss Dalma of KISS. I was so happy to be in the KISS not only for the education but also for its beauty where I had the opportunity to study amidst 20000 students (twenty thousand tribal students). There was a phase when I was struggling just to arrange admission fees for my education but KISS has resolved all these issues and enabled me to focus on study without any external tensions. KISS also provides platform to celebrate our traditional cultures. In my three years I KISS, I have got the opportunity to witness different tribal cultures of Odisha like Sadri, Oraon, Santhal and many more. With respect to my Dimasa culture, I take part in our traditional cultural programs and cultural youth festivals to celebrate and cherish our tradition and culture.

As of now, I am pursuing PhD from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Guwahati. After completing B.Sc. from KISS, I have done post-graduation in MA development from Azim Premji University, Bangalore with 100 % scholarship. After completing PG, I have joined a Grassroot NGO based on Bongaigaon district of Assam where I had the opportunity to work in the community development programs particularly in livelihood sector with several vulnerable communities comprising of both minorities and tribals of that particular region.

KISS has not only given me the platform to get a formal education in B.Sc. degree but it has also allowed me to engage in extra-curricular activities. KISS has also allowed me to professionally train in archery sport under the supervision of one of the renown archery coach of Odisha, Mr Rajesh Hansdak. Though I could not get any medals I am proud that I could represent KISS in Inter-University Tournament held in 2011. Besides, I have also participated in two state-level archery tournaments in Odisha. The combination of both mental and physical education through sports have helped me to develop critical thinking and also to understand the world better. In other words, KISS has opened my eyes and enabled me to experience a better world.

As a matter of fact, without KISS institute, forget about the PhD, I would have not even been able to complete my bachelor degree and without which definitely, I would not have been in the place where I am now. Similarly, my younger brother would not have been a Doctor today, had he  not  joined KISS. Now everybody can feel the happiness of the distressed mother, when she finds both of her sons are highly educated and well placed only because of KISS. I again would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Founder of KISS Dr. Achutya Samanta for teaching us how to fish and thereby enabling us to break the cycle of poverty.

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