Written By Ritesh Mohanty
“While walking the muddy roads, accompanying her to collect wild spinach and drinking gruels of the husked broken rice, I wished to wave a magic wand to transform my village to a Utopia where everything would be perfectly placed.” – Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT, KISS KADAMBINI, KALINGA TV & NILIMARANI MEMORIAL CHARITABLE TRUST (NMCT).
Kalarabanka, a village under Kishannagar block in Manpur gram panchayat in Cuttack district of Odisha, is situated on the banks of river Palka. My visit to the village made me astound, rather I was startled to see the immense development in the region with Wi-Fi connectivity, use of solar power, security measures by CCTV surveillance, and much more. Earlier, I use to baffle around the words Smart Village, thinking what could it be, what could it exactly mean. But soon after the concept of smart cities came into existence, I wondered around and thought of visiting Kalarabanka.
Urban zones in India have always remained a major centre of attraction for socio-political activities. Prior to independence, the villages never had the scope, nor had received any attention from any one/source. In the urban camera, villages always remained as a place of farming, thatched houses, cattle, dirty ponds, and huge open farm fields. Even after independence it took decades for the urban society to give some attention to the rural India. However, the attention today has grown but not practically in every zone. But among all is the village Kalarabanka in Manpur Panchayat. The moment I entered Manpur, which consists of 6 villages in total, I saw development in the region, which has bloomed into, with establishment of better transport communication, medical services, proper sanitation, banking services, and mainly education.
Developed into a ‘Smart Village’, in a unique direct development action in the country, the village is one of the very first smart villages in the country. The development work for a model village, started in the year 2000 with an initiative taken by eminent educational entrepreneur, social activist and reformer Dr. Achyuta Samanta. Dr. Samanta, who is a native of the village, was largely inspired by his mother Nilimarani Samanta to work for his village. And soon, though slowly, but development walked paths with the village and in next 5-6 years Kalarabanka transformed into a model village with development of many modern amenities for education, health and sanitation, communication, environment etc. The then governor of Odisha Shri Rameswar Thakur inaugurated “Kalarabanka Model Village” on 5th June 2006. Today the village has been developed into a smart village with free Wi-Fi connectivity across the entire village, CCTV surveillance covering the entire village and introduction of solar energy. The Project is being implemented by the Nilimarani memorial Charitable Trust (NMCT), which was established for this purpose.
Populated with 763 people, with 459 men and 304 women in a total of 117 households, the rate of literacy today in the village is 89.8%, which is much higher than the average rate of Odisha and India. For the purpose of educating the mass and prosper knowledge, the village today has got an English medium school in the name of Kalinga English Medium School, which has about 1000 students, a Kalarabanka High School with 600 students and a public library and reading room. Ex-students of the schools have prospered a lot and are now established, working with big MNC’s in India and abroad.
I ran up to the roof of the school building, to get a total image of the village, as it is the tallest building, I saw a solar panel on the roof of a single floored building. On asking, I got to know that the village has got a 2.5 kW roof top solar power plant at the Nilimarani Library that supplies power to most public institutions in the village. The Entire village today is covered under CCTV Surveillance System, installed by Nilimarani Memorial Charitable Trust (NMCT) to enhance a secure environment in the village. While Wi-Fi hotspots let villagers to access local intranet via a language-independent mobile app to view their consumption, pay bills and register complaints. Kids in village do get lot help from the Internet, including knowledge and other types of information. On asking, a cutely notorious kid replied, “we also use Facebook, watch videos and play games online”. The NMCT has also initiated a Women Self Help Group (SHG) in the village, whose members make small regular saving contribution. The SHG is promoting village and household enterprise by lending funds to members interested to set up such enterprises. Meeting of the SHG are held regularly and records of all financial transactions are kept meticulously.
Contaminated water is the major cause of many diseases. Therefore, the Nilimarani Memorial Charitable Trust (NMCT) has initiated a Tap Drinking Water Project with support of the Govt to provide clean tap drinking water to each household of Kalarabanka village. The project has brought down incidence of water borne diseases, which were widespread earlier. Other than this, communication receives a high priority after education and health, at Kalarabanka. For this, Kalarabanka has been connected to the main road by a metaled all weather road. The main road has been constructed with the support of the Govt. under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Besides, all lanes and by-lanes inside the village have been made pucca by Nilimarani Memorial Charitable Trust (NMCT).
To maintain Law and order in the village, a Police Outpost was established by Govt. in 2008. Apart from this, today the members of the Gray Samiti at Kalarabanka meet regularly to discuss about the village level development, while a youth club, emphasizes on socially constructive activities by the youth in the development works, and also organizes various sports events and religious activities in the village.
Apart from this, there is a Rural Health Centre with telemedicine facility, which has been initiated by Kalinga institute of Medical Sciences. The locals have benefitted a lot with the 100-bedded primary health center. I was amazed to know one thing that, Kalarabanka today is the first village in Odisha and the second in India where the entire population is covered under health insurance.
Among other places and important centers in the village are women committee-meeting hall (Mahila Samiti), Sree Raghunath Jew and Hanuman Temple, Rural citizen service center and more.
After Kalarabanka, today the entire Gram Panchayat of Manpur in Cuttack district, consisting of 6 villages has been made a Model Panchayat by extending common facilities and amenities like health care, sanitation, road, street light, education, communication, etc. Manpur is the first Panchayat in the country, which has been developed as a model Panchayat.
This proud project initiated by Dr. Samanta has not only received accolades but also has given immense ideas and possibilities for development of rural sector across the country.
The development was possible because of Dr. Samanta’s philosophy of “Art of Giving”.
According to him, one need not to be very rich to give something back to the society, rather one must be poor to know the luxury of giving. Charity is an important tenet in every religion because compassion is essential for every human being. ‘Daan’ in Hinduism and Buddhism, ‘tithe’ in Christianity and ‘Zakat’ in Islam uphold the philosophy of giving. One must understand that “Happiness does not result from what we get, but from what we give.” Giving is not always giving only material goods, which are just one form of generosity. It is rather an attitude for “Being kind, attentive and honest in dealing with others.