Social Activist, Mr. SN Samanta
When famous author Robert Greene termed ‘Jack of all trades master of none’, he hadn’t met Mr. Satya Narayan Samanta as former chairman of Banki and Social Activist. A multi-faceted personality that he is – A Technologist, Horticulturist, Entrepreneur, Rural economist, Environmentalist, Homeopathy practitioner, a brave identified Orator- Mr. Samanta is famous for his Midas touch. A scholar from the Institute of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering Madras (1980), Mr. Samanta has now turned to uplift the rural development of his hometown Banki segment.
Here are some excerpts of his interview.
Q: In the year 1992, you were elected independently as the Chairman of Banki Block. How was your political journey?
A: My tenure as the chairman of Banki Block continued for about 3 years and 9 months.
Prior to the resumption as Chairman there were no elections conducted for the last 6-7 years and the entire Panchayat Raj system came under the direct control of government. The Panchayati Raj Policy (73rd Amendment of Constitution) had just been introduced and I left no stoned unturned in the implementation of the policy in the rural sector. The objective of the policy was to involve the people in rural sector i.e., ‘Power to Public’ and it was the duty of Block administration to properly implement the policy as per prescribed guidelines. About 27 sectors administered by the Panchayat Samiti that came under the developmental schemes, were entitled to services such as, health care through PHCs, construction of road connectivity, agriculture and irrigation facilities, educational provisions in primary sector, industrial promotion in micro level, housings for poor mass etc.
Secondly, the entire Public Distribution System (PDS) was also jeopardised. A lot of grievances from the public were received who complained about the consistent irregularities in receiving the PDS materials. I set up a probe into the matter and found that many mediators were hoarding the materials meant for the public. Thus, debarring the needy from receiving their commodities. This injustice practice needed immediate reformation, I made an appeal to the then Hon’ble Chief Minister Biju Patnaik to entrust the power to Blocks in taking charge of the PDS so that it could be addressed in time. The reformation was brought by Hon’ble CM and implemented throughout the state. In consequence the Block administration took over complete responsibility in the timely execution of PDS. In my Block I further added a policy that each elected member of the GP is empowered to monitor the PDS in their respective villages.
I had introduced a new pattern of setup in the Block that all executives are bound to share their tour charts on the daily notice board for public convenience. The idea behind was to check that no grievance of the public goes unnoticed as they would be aware of the schedule and they could plan their visit to the block office on time without fail.
In addition to this, I brought a major reformation in the bill’s payment. Usually all the payments were made to the tune of 90% of bill amount and only last and final payment was put to Chairman for counter signature. A lot of ‘under the table’ malpractices were reported. I amended that any payment must be countersigned by the chairman and in his absence the vice chairman will be entrusted with the task. The then department of Panchayat Raj accepted and approved the proposal and further introduced the cheque sign power to Chairman.
Q: If we chalk out a comparison on the key issues of rural development during your tenure and the present scenario, what major issues will you be talking about?
A: Amid the year 1992-95, there was no Zila Parishad, hence all the Chairmen were empowered with powers. Luckily, out of 41 Chairpersons in undivided Cuttack district, the government selected me to different developmental boards such as District Planning and Development Board (DPDB), District Industrial Development Board (DIDB), District Rural and Development Agencies Board. Eventually, I was elected as the Director to these three boards as the representative.
In the next tenure, with the formation of the Zila Parishad, the power of the Chairman got squeezed. Talking about the present scenario, a lot of modifications regarding the working system and schematic provisions have been introduced.
One of the major issues is the need of acute implementation of schemes that are being time and again introduced by the govt. The departments and agencies that have been bestowed upon with the charge to properly execute these schemes are catering to serious corrupt practices. As a result of which, rural people and the rural areas are devoid of fulfilling their desired needs, putting a halt to their all-round development. Huge corrupt practices and irregularities noticed while selecting the beneficiaries. The needy ones are getting left out from the list. A classical case of ‘Rich getting richer and poor getting poorer’.
Talking about the condition of PHCs, I have recorded agitations time and again owing to the lack of doctors and health care workers. As a result of which, the poor people are being compelled to pay a hefty sum of money to the private clinics. Such issues need immediate address of the government.
Q: Recently, you were honoured as a ‘COVID Warrior’. What are your perceptions on the COVID-19 situation?
A: The gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic is far more serious. Since the government-imposed nation-wide lockdown, I along with some social workers took the task to make people conscious about gravity of the coronavirus. We took every possible initiative to share the message of the dire need of Social distancing, putting Masks and Sanitisation (SMS). Consciousness meetings were held, awareness drives were undertaken.
The timely changes in the guidelines of COVID-19 management have brought many unanswered questions in the minds of the public. They feel that the scare of COVID-19 has been fabricated by the government. The public is still unaware of the seriousness of the pandemic even though the pandemic is on a constant upsurge. This attitude among the public has raised grave questions on the future of survivability since we are yet obscure about the availability of the preventives or vaccine. We need to live up to ‘Prevention is better than cure’ in our daily life.
Secondly, testing should be made compulsory if we need to fight COVID-19 on our terms. A lot of cases go unnoticed but ultimately, the number of symptomatic patients goes way beyond control as the damage has already been done by then.
Q: You have also earned accolades as an Economist too. What is your view on the country’s demeaning GDP figure?
A: There is a huge difference between rural economy and urban economy. While the urban economy depends upon the GDP of the industrial sector only, but the rural economy depends on agro- productivity. I belong to Banki area which is highly popular as a hub of vegetable produce. The farmers are more conscious and educated than so called agriculturists, more experienced than any departmental officers. But can anyone brief regarding the inclusion of agro products in the GDP scheme? Sadly enough, the answer is NO.
Recently, the IMF made a report on how India’s GDP has stooped as low as -23.9%. This resulted because during the lockdowns and containments induced due to pandemic, more than 90% industries were forced to and found shut down. So, it is quite natural that the GDP will fall down. Unless there is consistent production activity it would be foolish to expect a steady growth in GDP. What about the agro sector? The GDP figure would have been different if the agro-products come under its scanner.
To sum up, I can say that the rural economy is the backbone of the country. We need to strengthen our rural economy first. Maximum emphasis must be given on the production and grow of agro sector.
Next comes the issue of unemployment. Battling out the rising trend of unemployment has become a colossal task for the government. Everything cannot be blamed on the government. The government has a bigger task for paving the path of survivability. Gradually the government is giving out opportunities and the GDP will go up.
The MSME sector in the rural belts needs to come into limelight. We can have many micro and small units in the rural areas that will promote the growth of technicians, artisans and generate employment opportunities. This can help to meet the need of employment generation in abundance. For this the role of banks and bankers is most important. Today, I find no bank is giving importance to rural MSME. 2 months ago, I chaired a meeting of the MSME Board, Cuttack where I put forward the issues on the distribution of 20 lakh crore aid announced by the Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of which, 3 lakh crores have been sanctioned for the MSME sector which will help in repaying of the 20% of the default loan that was long left to be paid. The amount is not meant for the installation, growth and promotion of new MSME units.
Q: The initial days when you started your career as an entrepreneur must have been rough and tough. How did you overcome the crisis?
A: In the year 1980-81, I started my entrepreneurship career in a partnership venture in Koraput. 30 years have passed since then. My entrepreneurship is based on research and innovation. Quality and sustainability are my two weapons. I did my research from Roorkie, SERC Institute Chennai and NBO Delhi.
On account of corrupt attitude of my partner dispute arises. I left Koraput after 10 years, forego my partnership property share and returned to Banki along with my research out turn and knowledge, considering as my most valuable asset. In 1989, I started the SSI Unit for manufacturing of RCC Precast structural elements for cost effective housing and command area irrigation system. Production of concrete blocks, the first in the state of Orissa. In 1999, aftermath of the super cyclone, I shared free guidelines to many entrepreneurs to start up their own manufacturing units but my plans backfired due to faulty policies and corrupt practices of HUDCO and ORHDC.
Marketing of products is the biggest hurdle. Unless products get a marketing support, technology appreciation it is a tiring job to promote and expand the industrial activity in the rural sector.
Q: What entrepreneurship skills have you put to use on your daily life?
A: Since 2007, I have a nursery that has been registered with the Department of Horticulture. I produce saplings and grafted plants. Many of these saplings have been supplied to State Horticulture Dept., NABARD extending six other neighbouring states includes Andhra Pradesh to Jharkhand. All this has become a reality because I never compromise with quality of my products. I am least bothered about the quantity since it is subjected to market demands and consumers’ consignment.
Rather than money, we should comply with innovation. This should be the motto of every industrialist. Make your product qualitative, deal honestly, stick to timelines.
Q: How did you become interested in offbeat and unconventional environmental works?
A: The global climatic condition and the difference in seasonal repercussions have become a topic of international debate. The environment must be protected for which we need huge plantation, the best and only solution to tackle disrupted climatic conditions. Unless and until the environment is protected we cannot dream of a better future. Present is the mirror of tomorrow. Hence, we must come together in making our planet liveable keeping in mind the need of sustainability for our future generations.
Written By: AISHWARYA SAMANTA
Image Source: Google
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