Bhubaneswar: Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and its sister institution Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), moved by the compassionate vision of its founder, Dr. Achyuta Samanta, have always responded swiftly to reduce the suffering of people at the time of natural calamities. This time also, right from the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, it has been doing its bit to reach out to the worst-affected, touching the lives of patients, stranded migrant workers, people living in containment areas and even starving animals.

Predicting the challenges that lay ahead, KIIT and KISS initiated an action plan to help the worst-hit sections of the society. It was the first mover in creating awareness on the disease even before the State reported its first coronavirus case. Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), the medical wing of KIIT, organized a lecture on ‘Corona Virus – A Global Threat’ on 1st February, 2020 in which standard infection control strategies to prevent the spread of coronavirus was discussed. Subsequently, Kalinga Institute of Nursing Sciences (KINS) and KIIT School of Public Health also joined the awareness effort.

The student community is one of the worst affected groups in the present crisis. Examinations, admissions and academic sessions all remain disrupted. KIIT Deemed to be University, which has been recognized as an Institution of Eminence by the Govt. of India, has 30,000 students from all parts of India and over 50 countries. Another 30,000 underprivileged students study in KISS, the world’s largest fully-free fully-residential institute exclusively for tribal students. Anticipating the problem early, all the students of KIIT and KISS were safely sent back to their homes well before India declared the nationwide lockdown.

But for KIIT and KISS students, being away from the campus did not mean academic loss. KIIT is the first University to have begun online classes for 30,000 students. Encouragingly, about 95% of the students are attending the online classes, conducted through Zoom, regularly. Not only online classes, but there is good participation in the one-day academic seminars conducted online, with overwhelmingly positive feedback from the students. As such, KIIT has been able to maintain the academic calendar perfectly so far. If the crisis persists for a longer time, KIIT has made all preparations to conduct online examinations also. Similarly, 30,000 tribal students of KISS are in constant touch with their teachers through WhatsApp groups. KISS has taken initiative to start e-Learning classes for them through Kalinga TV.

While in their homes in various districts of Odisha, KISS students are actively engaged in creating awareness on social distancing and respiratory hygiene in their areas. Involving the students of the institute, KISS launched ‘Project Uday’, a massive awareness campaign on social distancing, proper use of mask, hand washing and respiratory hygiene in six aspirational districts of Odisha: Rayagada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Kandhamal, Balangir, and Gajapati. Under Project Uday, students are carrying out door-to-door campaigning and organizing awareness camps at market places. More than 500 volunteers are involved in the project covering 220 villages.

In one of the most significant measure in Odisha’s war against Covid-19, Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) set up India’s first standalone COVID-19 hospital, a 500-bedded ultramodern facility including 50 critical care beds, with the support of the Govt. of Odisha. This Covid Hospital is functioning from a dedicated block of KIMS with an exclusive team of doctors, nurses, paramedics and housekeeping staff. The quick turnaround time in setting up of the state-of-the-art dedicated Covid Hospital received much praise. Today, KIMS is the go-to hospital for any suspected coronavirus patient in the capital city of Bhubaneswar.

“The vision of chief minister Naveen Patnaik in tackling the pandemic has been proactive and ahead of any other Indian state. The MoU with KIMS takes that vision one step further. KIMS will definitely put in all possible effort to justify the chief minister’s faith and fulfill his vision, and serve the people of the state in a better and bigger way. I hope that this partnership will bear fruit and we can soon have a COVID-19 free Odisha”, said Prof. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS.

In anticipation of the possible spike in positive cases in districts, KIIT has also set up three 200-bedded COVID-19 hospitals, one each in Kandhamal, Balangir and Mayurbhanj districts, with the support of the respective district administration. In Balangir and Mayurbhanj, the facility functions from the satellite campuses of KISS, which were inaugurated recently. All three District COVID-19 Hospitals, already operational from the mid of April, are managed by KIMS and provides round the clock services following WHO and ICMR guidelines. The Covid Hospital in Kandhamal, a district having no railway connectivity, is a boon for the local people, who are yet to be exposed to the world of high speed internet connectivity. Besides Covid Hospital, KIIT and KISS are providing groceries and cash for miscellaneous expenses to over 40 orphanages, old age homes and leprosy centres in Kandhamal districts.

Another constituent of KIIT, KIIT-Technology Business Incubator (KIIT-TBI) under KIIT School of Biotechnology, has been recognised as a Centre for Augmenting War with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH) by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India, along with other eminent institutes in India, including IITs. KIIT-TBI is responsible for implementing this program in East & NE.

The Covid-19 pandemic is not only a global health emergency, it have also caused a grave humanitarian crisis due to prolonged lockdowns and loss of livelihoods for millions. KIIT and KISS have been trying to identify and reach out to various groups facing hardship due to the extended lockdown. It distributed family survival packets – comprising of essential food items like rice, pulses, cooking oil, etc. – to the disadvantaged people living in various slums in Bhubaneswar. The survival packets were given thrice a week for the first month during lockdown to 40,000 people in the slum areas of Bhubaneswar.

“We are doing our bit to ensure that vulnerable sections of the population around do not face starvation. We are augmenting the efforts of the State Government, which has robust policies for such sections, in a humble way”, Prof. Samanta said, while urging every citizen to do whatever best they can individually and to support the local administration in these challenging times.

KIIT also took initiative to deliver cooked food to police personnel on duty, who were diligently enforcing the lockdown. Lunch was provided every day to more than 2000 police personnel across Bhubaneswar as well as adjoining cities of Puri and Cuttack to honour their work to make people aware about Covid-19.

The institution is working closely with the Govt. of Odisha to provide all support from its available resources like logistics, infrastructure, healthcare, human resources, etc. It provided temporary shelter and cooked meals to migrant labourers, who were stranded in Bhubaneswar, after the lockdown was announced. More than 1000 migrant workers were helped in this initiative. After some areas in Bhubaneswar were marked as containment zones, it distributed food and essential items to the people of the zone. KISS worked closely with the American Embassy in the evacuation of personnel who were stuck in Odisha and other adjoining areas. It also distributed feminine hygiene products to women and girls in all the districts of Odisha.

Other community outreach activities include provision of one month supply to the Tibetan population in Chandragiri and Padmasambhava Monastery in Jiranga, a Tibetan settlement area in Eastern Odisha; adoption of two old age homes in Chandragiri. KIMS is also supporting a hospital in Jiranga and has provided PPE to the health workers.

Reaching the unreached, KIIT and KISS extended a helping hand to the red light areas in Bhubaneswar. Groceries and other essentials were provided to the needy. KIIT, KISS, Sakha and Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives came together to distribute ration and essential items for the transgender community in Bhubaneswar, Rayagada and a few other districts of Odisha.

KIIT and KISS even set up a team to source and distribute fruits, vegetables, biscuits and other food materials to animals like monkeys, cattle and dogs, in and around the campus. It has adopted 140 peacocks in Bhubaneswar is taking care of these beautiful birds and providing financial assistance to more than 10 ‘Goshalas’ in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. “I wish to remind everyone that while we need to be kind to every other human through social distancing, we must not forget about these animals who are so much dependant on us. Show some kindness, bring a smile to everyone in this difficult time”, says Prof. Samanta.

“COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious global health crisis of our times and also the toughest humanitarian challenge. It has extracted a huge human toll, besides causing big setbacks to the economy. Our efforts are a drop in the ocean and aim to bring smiles on the faces of as many people as we can touch. But, I am sure, together, we will overcome this crisis also”, he added.