Kandhamal, the tribal district of Odisha, conjures up images of scenic beauty of waterfalls, springs, woods, and aboriginal tribes.
A district known for its poor connectivity with the rest of the State, was in news last year a photo of some students crossing river streams went viral across social media.
If the situation is this grim today, imagine what it would have been like to grow up there back in the late 40’s. To put it in perspective, back then, even Bhubaneswar wasn’t fit for dwelling.
However, with his indomitable power of will, John Nayak, the former DGP of Odisha, was able to complete his matriculation and became one the very few people in the region to pursue higher education in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.
John Nayak, born in 1942, hails from Kandhamal district predominantly inhabited by the poor, marginalized and underprivileged. He went to a residential school at Mondasore, situated at a distance of 40 km, being inspired by a Spanish missionary.
There was no school of any kind within the radius of 50 km and as a result, his parents as well as all other villagers were illiterate. As such, in a way the entire area was in darkness literally and figuratively due to lack of education, basic infrastructure and awareness. Under such circumstances, going to the school at the age of 5 years was surely providential.
After class 7 at Mondasore he went to Sorada for further education as there was no high school in the district within his reach. He walked along with 3 of his classmates for more than a 100 km, negotiating rivers, mountains and dense forest infested with wild animals as no road transport was available connecting Sorada.
He studied sincerely and passed matriculation in the 1st Division, being inspired by Fr. J P Singh the founder of the school who was a great educationist. Thereafter he graduated with honours from Ravenshaw College, Cuttack and obtained MA and LL.B from Utkal University.
He joined IPS in 1965 and retired in 2002 as the Director General of Police. He held all the important posts in Police Department successfully and was awarded the Police Medal for Meritorious service in 1995 and President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2002.
Post his marriage he had the full support of his wife Maya who is the daughter of Shri Madhusudan Mahapatra, a great freedom fighter from Ganjam district and the 1st MLA of Aska constituency after the independence.
During his service career, he made sincere and humble efforts to help people especially from weaker sections of society. After retirement, he lives in Bhubaneswar and spends his time working with several organisations engaged in humanitarian, philanthropic and social service.
He penned his autobiography narrating his journey from the tribal district to the power corridors of Odisha. The autobiography was released earlier this month and is available on Amazon.