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Spreading the arm of knowledge

Jnan Prokash Poddar

The satisfaction lies not just in success, but in a job well done. The triumphs for Jnan Prokash Poddar have been small and plentiful, but it’s the working process that matters to him the most. The 44-year-old made a pact with destiny 15 years ago, to forsake a law degree and family life for a greater cause, and sticking to it has brought just rewards.

The man from Murshidabad has been working with the Thakurpukur-based NGO Indian Institute for Training and Development (IITD) since 1989. He has helped build it from a few acres of land and a dream to an organisation that reaches its long arms of knowledge and training beyond the borders of Bengal, to Bihar, Bangladesh and even Belgium.

“It’s in my blood,” he smiles. “I haven’t had time to make a home for myself. I live in a room in the compound, and I live and breathe IITD. I can’t imagine doing anything else. My mission is to equip as many people as I can with some basic skills, to help them do their jobs better, so that they, in turn, can reach out to others.”

The institute conducts training programmes in wide-ranging issues, from HIV/AIDS and NGO management to first-aid and micro economics amongst social workers, health officials, teachers, and even pharmaceutical companies. The faculty comprises experienced individuals, including academics, doctors and government officers.

Some workshops are run by IITD, while others are tailor-made according to requests. It works with NGOs like Lutheran World Service and Calcutta Urban Service in West Bengal, Bihar Volunteers Association, Dulal in Orissa, Care and Brac in Bangladesh, and is planning an exercise with a team from Nepal next month.

“We recently did a course on disaster management with teachers of state-run schools in flood-prone Kakdwip. An interesting course was with a bunch of Belgian nurses a few years ago on health practices and the culture in Bengal,” Poddar adds.

The B.Com graduate’s aim is to make IITD a self-reliant establishment, independent of donations and capable of functioning on its own. “In 1996, our main source of funding dried up. We had to go through some hard times,” he explains. So, although no course is conducted free, the fee is nominal, and includes lodging and food. For those who can’t afford it, the price is reduced.

Learning, for Poddar, is still a passion, as he spends time staying with and observing the workings of NGOs around the country.

“When I gave up a corporate job in 1984 to work in an NGO is Bihar, as assistant administrator, I knew a sense of satisfaction that has stayed with me ever since. That is enough.”

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