The Man Behind VIKALPA: Dr. Surendra Kumar Pattnaik
Dr S.K. Pattnaik's diminutive size is misleading - because he is big on ideas. Armed with a doctorate degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he arrived in Nawapara, in Bolangir district of Odisha, in the early eighties determined to look into the core causes of misery and suffering in the area. "Drought is a disease," he says, "and the symptoms of hunger, starvation, migration and misery. We cannot only treat the symptoms, but we also have to eradicate the disease itself. For this, we have to analyse the causes. What I saw and experienced, convinced me that there was hope for the area, if only we could address the anomalies within the system that hampered progress, and also effectively manage natural resources."
From a student who was deeply moved by what he read about the people of Odisha, to a prominent NGO leader, Dr. Pattnaik has come a long way. Vikalpa's long journey has been fraught with challenges. Dr. Pattnaik was aware that it would be an uphill task. He had to address issues of caste, landlessness, and poverty if he was to work in this area. His perseverance paid off and now, almost three decades later, he says,"I see a ray of light and feel I am finally moving in the right direction. But I have miles to go before I sleep."
Dr. Pattnaik's path could well have taken a different direction because his doctorate in Economics of Education and Student Alienation in Indian University would have made it easy for him to adopt a career in the bureaucracy - a life that would have ensured personal stability and security. He joined Sambalpur University and taught for two years, but deep within he knew that was not what he wanted to do with his life.
Dr. Pattnaik has authored two books. Clear and well-thought-out ideas, consistent strategies that focus on bringing the poor and marginalised together for the betterment of communities are strengths that Dr. Pattnaik has built into Vikalpa over the years.
When asked about the one change he looks forward to, which will indicate that his years of work have been fruitful, he replies,"If the people, especially women, among whom I am working are able to change society and craft their own destiny, I will be fulfilled."
Dr. Pattnaik's determination, Commitment and dedication are apparent in everything he says.