Achyuta Samanta, Founder of KISS had always nurtured vision of a world free from hunger, poverty, illiteracy and ignorance because he himself had to go through all these things in his childhood. Untimely demise of his father when he was only four years old plunged the whole family comprising 7 siblings and widow mother into the mire of abject poverty and deprivation. With no fortune to fall back on, the family languished in their remote native village in Odisha and would often go without a square meal for days. The grueling experience of his childhood had convinced the young Achyuta Samanta quite early in life that hunger, poverty, ignorance, and illiteracy kill people from within and further deprive them of livelihood earning skills. With great hardship and struggle, Achyuta Samanta completed his Masters in Chemistry in 1987 and soon became an academic. But deep within his passionate heart, he cringed to do something to emancipate the poor and the deprived. His passion took him to the tribal hinterland where he traveled extensively and even stayed for days together among the poor and much alienated Juang tribal community in Keonjhar district and the Bhumija and Kolhas of Mayurbhanj district and watched from a very close range how the government and NGO organizations worked in their endeavor to develop the tribal communities.
His first hand practical experience made him realize that lack of education was the sole reason why the tribal were not developing despite tremendous contributions being made by the Government and different NGOs. The tribal had a different lifestyle of their own which had been solely dependent on the forests surrounding their habitat, but with gradual deforestation their very survival was at stake. The livelihood earning skills of the mainstream population was totally incomprehensible for them. Life for them had been of not much meaning. They lead mostly a listless life and lived from one moment to the other enjoying the sporadic small spots of affluence brought by the various schemes of the Government and the NGOs. Enriched with wisdom derived from experiences of his own life and that from his visits and stays in the tribal hinterland, the young academic Achyuta Samanta, with all his savings that amounted to only Rs 5000/- (100 USD), was prompted to start a small training institute – Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) in 1992 at Bhubaneswar, the capital city in a rented building. He also set up another institute side by side, the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) dedicating it especially for the basic education of the tribal children starting with 125 poorest tribal children. He had approached Late Shri P. K. Bal, an eminent social activist & journalist, who shared his intention of tribal development, to be the President of KIIT & KISS. However, cruel hands of destiny even snatched this support in 1999, when Shri Bal had an untimely demise. Achyuta Samanta’s brilliant visionary mind knew right from the start that KIIT would sustain KISS as he himself had neither a fortune of his own to spare nor any influential backing and banking support. KIIT has been deftly mentored by Samanta as a result of which it has consistently grown into a self-sufficient educational organization and nurtured the growth of KISS, from pillar to pillar. KIIT provided a sustainable financing and technically enabling model for KISS because living on donations, which would come by sporadically, could not have provided a sustainable source of finance and other resources. Since then both the organizations are prospering impressively. KISS, the philanthropic spirit of KIIT and its founder Achyuta Samanta, today has student strength of 27,000 of whom 12,200 are girls who receive holistic education from Kindergarten to post graduation and beyond with vocational training in a wide range of disciplines. Besides implementing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, KISS has been able to bring about much needed social changes in the tribal hinterland of the state and its neighboring states by arresting spread of Maoist and Naxalite insurgency in these areas and inculcating in the tribal minds a strong will to live life big.
KISS, through its 25,000 students who come from as many families in different villages across the state, is indeed transforming tribal mindset and triggering their joining the mainstream society. The innovative pedagogy and thoughtful curricula adopted in KISS ensures zero dropout, whereas tribal schools in the tribal hinterland suffer from rampant dropout menace. Staying in the middle of the mainstream population has been providing the much needed confidence and acquaintance with skills of the mainstream and for seamless coexistence. KISS students are excelling not only in their studies, but also in various extracurricular activities, particularly sports winning national and international recognition. Students on their graduation find gainful employment on their own merit in different organizations at par with their counterparts from the mainstream society. Today they even look forward to higher education in professional domains such as engineering, medical, law, management, etc. KISS’s success story has spread far and wide and has been bringing many inquisitive visitors including State and Country Heads, Diplomats, Nobel Laureates, Social Activists, Social Researchers and Scholars, Legal Luminaries from across the world to its campus at frequent intervals. World organizations like UNICEF, UNDP, etc. have also come forward to join hands with KISS in its endeavor towards economic and social emancipation of the tribal. Press and Media from across the globe have been publishing the saga of success of KISS. The success of KISS has attracted the attention of planners and administrators of different governments within the country and abroad calling for replication of KISS in their respective areas. While a branch of KISS, KISS-DELHI, is operating successfully in the National Capital Region of Delhi, plans are in the offing to open branches of KISS in all the thirty districts of the state of Odisha, 10 states in India and in 10 foreign countries. KISS’s founder, Achyuta Samanta’s has been propagating the KISS Model in different developing and underdeveloped countries in his bid to change the lives of the poor and the hapless throughout the globe. KISS has grown as an amazing social initiative and is catching the fancy of great thinkers throughout the globe.