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Dr. Prasanna Mishra
Dr Sruti Mohapatra - TALE OF A GLOWING FLAME -By Dr. Prasanna Mishra
BlogPosted By: hindtodaynews on:10/5/2010 11:13:53 PM


(Dr.Prasanna Mishra )

Majestically seated on her wheel chair she has climbed high mountains of challenges with great serenity. While many of us having no physical disability whatsoever have demonstrated our disinclination to take up any worthwhile challenge in life, she continues radiating the glow of a flame that symbolises the indomitability of her mind.  Born on 29/09/1963, Dr Sruti Mohapatra had a brilliant academic career. She holds a PhD degree in Developmental Biology and was the topper & Gold Medalist in MSc. She was the recipient of the Best Student Award 1978 of Utkal University and was the National Debating Champion in 1980, 1981 and 1982. As an excellent player in Basketball she was a Member in the State Basketball Team from 1978 to 1983. She was the Literary Champion in Utkal University in 1984. She qualified in the Civil Services Examination in 1987 in Group A (Allied Service). While getting ready to commence her career in public service in the Government of India, she met with a terrible car accident as a result of which she was severely injured and the lower part of her body was paralysed.  Sruti, however, was bold enough to push behind the terrible trauma the road accident caused.
Since 1987 till 1996 she taught civil service aspirants in training programmes sponsored by the Government of India and Government of Orissa. Thereafter till 2007, as the Director of Orissa IAS Study Circle, a career counseling and tutorial centre for students, she successfully trained more than 300 students who now occupy various positions in government, banks, research institutes, universities and other services (Indian Civil services, Indian Forest services, Indian Economics Services, Orissa Civil Services etc.).

 She is the Chief Executive of SWABHIMAN, State Disability Information and Resources Centre, Bhubaneswar since its inception in 2001.As the Chief Executive she has overall responsibility for short and long term planning and follow-up, evaluation and quality assurance of the Organisation’s ongoing activities. SWABHIMAN has an Advocacy and Legislation Cell; a Research and Documentation Unit; an Information Dissemination Centre; a Training and Capacity Building Body; a Networking and Federation Forming Node and a Publishing House.

Her experience in Disability sector for 20 years as a volunteer and as a full time Activist and her relentless efforts in the area of advocacy has resulted in (i) Appointment of Disability Commissioner, Orissa; (ii) 3% Reservation Notification By Dept. of Health in Government & Government Aided Medical & Para Medical Institutions; and (iii) 3% Reservation Notification By Dept. of Panchayati Raj in all Poverty Alleviation Schemes and Indira Awas Yojna.

Her exceptional ability for innovation has resulted in conceptualising and conducting many innovative programmes. She initiated a Project called ANJALI in the field of Education where the main objective is ‘TO RESTORE FUNFILLED CHILDHOOD AND TO CREATE BRIDGES FOR AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY.’ Anjali emphasizes on (i) Bag less schooling in pre and primary school; (ii) Outdoor Classes; (iii) Interactive rather than black-board teaching and (iv) new mediums of learning. ANJALI aims at the holistic development of artistic skills and using this as a medium of learning in elementary schools. ANJALI has successfully taught history through theatre, local culture through dances, literature through puppetry, importance of inclusion through music and science through outdoor trips. Another thrust area is to ‘bridge gaps’- especially between the rural and urban children, disabled and the non-disabled children, poor and rich children, etc and thus creates an inclusive world. Sharing stories of challenges faced and successes achieved by special children as also other children in challenging situations helps blossom relationships where differences become pillars for inclusion.

Another worthy initiative of hers has been the creation of ORISSA STATE DISABILITY NETWORK (OSDN). OSDN is a network of organizations and individuals in Orissa which promotes local advocacy groups and builds leadership in the disability sector; facilitates local advocacy groups to join hands with district level groups to eventually form a State wide Network that will act as a pressure group to influence meaningful policies at various levels – village, block, district state and national, regarding persons with disabilities; empowers disabled people and organizations and to sensitize other concerned sectors through systematic information dissemination on disability related issues like legislations, relevant policies, research findings and current developments;  closely monitors and lobbies with the governments, corporate and other allied sectors to advocate the adoption and implementation of appropriate policies/legislations and builds a common cross-disability platform for sharing of concerns by disabled people from all the corners of the state and to build a joint strategy for a cohesive disability movement in Orissa.
Yet another creation of hers has been a concept “Hand-In-Hand” which is first of its kind workshop to form a network of women in eastern India. The ideology is based on an attempt to bring together the physically challenged women and the women of mainstream for a face-to-face interaction and building up a network based on trust and mutual cooperation.

SANDHAN is a Network of students for the cause of disability awareness. This is her creation too. She realised that Swabhiman cannot have the financial resources to respond to the enormous needs of all disabled people across the state. She therefore went ahead and built something equally valuable through people power by creating a YOUNG THINK TANK and a STRONG ADVOCACY GROUP in the SANDHAN. The network is expected to sensitise the young generation to overcome societal biases that have been responsible in creating division among people. It is a Group for support of Research; it is an Advocacy Body; it is a pool of Volunteers.

She had been spearheading research and surveys in many areas which include (i)An Access Audit Exercise, supported by Action Aid to assess accessibility of Orissa.(ii) A Study on Domestic Violence Against Disabled Women and Girl Child In Orissa, India. This was the first study of its kind in India. (iii)Mental Health Study 2003 that revealed a declining care and support services for the mentally challenged persons.(iv)Urban Slum Survey 2002 - Conducted by Swabhiman with a focus on children with disability who had access to education, had aids and appliances and adults who were in jobs.

She is the Editor of BLUE FILE, the first and only quarterly compilation of newspaper articles on disability in India. (English & Oriya); she also edits the GIANT LEAPS FORWARD, quarterly English Newsletter of Swabhiman

 Associated in various Committees and Forums, she has been liberally contributing to the enrichment of our society. Notable associations have been as (i) Executive Committee Member in OPEPA (Orissa Primary Education Program); (ii) Member of Governing and Executive Body in Orissa Literacy Mission (iii) Executive Member in Red Cross Orissa: (iv) Member of the Ethical Review Committee (To review all research work on human beings for medical purposes); (v) Convener of Orissa State Disability Network; (vi) Chief Coordinator of ANJALI;(vii) Co-opted Member in Regional Spinal Cord Injury Centre, Cuttack (viii)Core Committee Member in Orissa Alliance on Child Rights; (ix) Executive Member in Social Equity Audit Team, India till 2007 and (x)Member of Task Force on Employment, Govt. of Orissa. She is also a Member of Orissa Zoological Society.

Her activities have been widely appreciated. Many organisations have honoured her. In National Symposium in Developmental Biology 1992, she was honoured with the National Young Scientist Award. Orissa Journalists Association recognised her as the Woman of the Year 1995; Orissa Branch of National Women’s Organisations recognised her as the Outstanding Person in 1997. She received the Red Cross Award, the Highest State Award for Disabled Achievers in 2001. CNN –IBN honoured her with Real Heroes Award in 2010.

An avid lover of Nature, she loves to travel and loves writing. Books written by her include  (1) Echoes – Published by Writer’s Workshop, Kolkata. (2) Disability Etiquette - Published by Swabhiman; (3) Concession and Facilities For The Disabled ;(4) Laws For The Disabled. Besides she has more than 100 short stories, poems and articles of general interest.

With such achievements she has been a role model for thousands. It is my earnest desire that this outstanding personality receives national recognition in a more meaningful way. Hers certainly is a deserving case for consideration for an appropriate Padma Award.

(The writer is a former IAS officer)

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