Akhaya Kumar Mohanty, President, Orissa State Co-operative Bank
By Subhojit Panda
Odisha, a state with preponderance of agriculture, has been a major player when it comes to the co-operative banking system in the country. The structuring of organized credit for the sector could be credited to the efforts of the Orissa State Co-operative Bank (OSCB) which was formed with an objective to develop the agrarian economy of the state. Be it supporting the farmers to meet their credit needs or adopting the technology in the co-operative credit structure from the state to village levels, the success story of OSCB is known to everyone. The efforts of Akhaya Kumar Mohanty, the current President of OSCB cannot be undermined who has breathed a new life into the co-operative bank sector through his dynamic and visionary leadership skills.
Born in a non-descript village of Latabainsia in Dhenkanal, Mohanty belonged to a poor farmer’s family. His father owned just six acres of land. The financial condition was never healthy. The earning was just enough to feed the family. “My brothers were farmers. So at times I used to help them at the farmlands. There was no proper primary school in my village so I could only study till class 3 in our village. I used to travel nearly five km by foot to a nearby village to complete my school education. But there was always a desire to do something for the farmer’s community,” he said.
But Mohanty’s life took a turnaround during his college days when he ventured into student politics. Apart from being an active member of the Student Union in Dhenkanal College, he came in contact with several political leaders at the college. Mohanty was also a huge admirer of Biju Babu (Biju Patnaik) and his ideologies. This influenced him to contemplate a career in youth politics. “I used to admire Biju Babu a lot. I always aspired to become a brave, bold and ambitious personality like him,” he says.
Recalling an incident when Mohanty got an opportunity to meet the son of the soil, he says, “Prior to the 1990 state assembly elections, Biju Babu and his team was visiting every district and reaching out to the people. When I got to know that he was visiting Dhenkanal district, I couldn’t control my excitement to meet him. I met him in Dhenkanal and expressed my willingness to join him for the district campaigning. He readily agreed. I visited several districts with him and felt honored to stay by his side for 15 days. It was truly a memorable experience for me,” he reminisces. Notably, Mohanty became the Secretary of the youth wing of Janta Dal for Dhenkanal and Angul districts in 1990.
Subsequently, he was mostly involved in the party activities until the then Biju Patnaik-led government got dethroned in 1995. Mohanty was also shocked with the development and met Biju Babu at his residence. On Biju Babu’s insistence, Mohanty started a small business of his own in Dhenkanal. For seven long years, he was completely focused on his business and kept aside all his political aspirations. But as fate would have it, Mohanty forayed into the cooperative banking sector in 2007. “There were Urban Co-operative Bank elections in Dhenkanal for the Director’s post. My friend, who was also contesting for the post of President, suggested me to apply for the post. Initially I didn’t pay much heed to his proposal as I had no idea regarding the sector. He convinced me and surprisingly, I won the elections by a huge margin. Further I became the Director of Angul Urban Co-operative Bank, the subsequent year.
Mohanty’s stint with Angul Urban Co-operative Bank was an eye-opener for him. “It was a great learning experience as I got an opportunity to meet the locals at the grassroots. I understood the importance of agricultural credit for farmers and how it could improve their livelihood and farm production. This motivated me to help the farmer’s community in Angul by regularly disbursing loans and other credit facilities to them. There were nearly 183 Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) under Angul Central Cooperative Bank and loans to the tune of Rs 300 crore were offered during the four years of my tenure in Angul,” he says. Currently, Mohanty is the President of Angul Central Cooperative bank.
But it was a moment for Mohanty when he was appointed as the President of OSCB in 2015. “For a moment I went into a shock upon knowing that I was appointed as the President of OSCB. I felt it was the perfect platform to work for the benefit of farmers of our state. ”
Mohanty sprung into action from day one. He realized that the grassroots level operations of the banking credit structure continue to be driven by outdated manual processes thereby standing in the way of timely and adequate provision of credit to the farmers. So he was instrumental in the computerization of most of the PACS in different districts. He is also ensuring the remodeling and installment of micro-ATMs at the PACS for a better credit structure system in the state.
To reach the farmers and other people in remote areas of the state, the Odisha State Cooperative Bank Limited (OSCB) recently launched ‘Banks of Wheels’ scheme in 20 backward blocks, covering 16 districts. Mohanty aspires to help the scheme reach all the targeted beneficiaries within the next year. The bank also established start-of-the-art core banking data management centre in its head office premises. The data centre stores the detailed database of 55 lakh farmers of the state and their credit transactions. Mohanty regularly monitors th
e centralized database system. Earlier, the state government issued Rupay Kisan cards to over 55 lakh farmers of the state. Under the scheme, credit is directly transferred into the farmers account so that purchase of necessary agricultural requirements like fertilizers, machineries, pesticides, etc can be done at a faster pace. Mohanty co-ordinates all the PACS to ensure that the farmers avail the best-possible benefits from the scheme.
Under his able supervision, the sensitization programs on short-term and long-term credit disbursal at different PACS of the state have already began with an objective to bridge the gap between the farmer’s community and PACS members. “During such programs, we motivate the farmers to avail small or long-term loans for their agricultural requirements and become self-reliant. This will help in reducing the rural unemployment issue to a greater extent,” he said. Besides, Mohanty also played a vital role in ensuring the landless farmers have adequate and timely access to agricultural credit. Mohanty is now aiming to facilitate loans to the farmers interested in poultry, fish, banana, corn, mushroom and dairy farming.
Mohanty’s choc-a-block schedule hardly leaves any time for him to relax. But when he is not working, he finds pleasure in reading newspapers and watching TV.
Mohanty always believed that children are the future of a country. He had completed his studies with such difficulty and didn’t want the children of his village to face the same situation like he did. This prompted him to start Royal International Public School, a CBSE-affiliated English medium school situated in Ranja area of Dhenkanal. “It was always a dream to start a school of my own. Initially, the school started off with only 30 students. I was nervous whether my hard work will pay off or not. But I never gave up. Currently there are over 400 students in my school. I am happy to see the smile on the face of villagers sending their children to an English medium school. I couldn’t have asked for more. My only wish is to see my school grow from strength to strength and students get recognition for the alma mater,” stressed he.
Mohanty has a piece of advice for the youngsters. “Work hard. Do not believe in shortcuts! Give back to the society as much as possible. We can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone,” he concluded.