inauguration of the Sadananda Sinha Conference Hall in the Economics Department of Ravenshaw University was an occasion in which we celebrated the the idea of excellence associated with the life and work of late Shri Sinha. He was a student in Ravenshaw College way back in early 1950s and attained his MA degree in economics in 1954 when he was just nineteen years old. It is noteworthy that he was a favorite student of late Dr. Sadasiva Mishra, the illustrious professor of Economics. Throughout his student life he excelled in studies. That legacy of excellence was carried forward by him in his capacity as a lecturer in economics in Parlakhemundi college where he served for a brief period. The culture of excellence which he represented was best manifested at the national level when he cleared the IPS examination in the very first chance in 1956 and thereby becoming the first product of Ravenshaw to have cracked the civil service examination in sharp contrast to the prevailing practice and notion then that to get into civil service a student at that time had to go out of Odisha, preferably to Allahabad University, to pursue higher education and write civil service examination with the hope to be successful in it.
On securing selection into IPS he got Orissa cadre, proved his worth as a distinguished officer of the State and gloriously retired after occupying the highest office in police department- the Director General. He continued the pursuit of excellence during his post retirement life and it was evident from his constant tuning to the word of study, ideas and higher consciousness. His life was a shining example of excellence, be it as a brilliant student of Ravenshaw, as a professional police officer or as a many splendoured personality engaged in the expansion of mind through his manifold activities including reading and reflection on diverse issues. The inauguration of the Sadananda Conference Hall in Economics Department of Ravenshaw University constitutes momentous event celebrating that legacy of excellence.
While surveying the old issues of Ravenshawvian of 1920s, 30s and 40s I found that during those days seminars used to be conducted in Junior Common Room or in some other room as no dedicated room was there to organize such academic activities. On one occasion in late 1930s the report of the Economics Department mentioned about the organization of a seminar and noted that enough space was not available to accommodate large number of students turning up to participate in it. There was, thus, dearth of space and proper facility to carry forward the academic activities of the Department beyond the routine class room teaching. The inauguration of the Sadananda Sinha Conference Hall because of the generous initiative of the worthy family of Shri Sinha is historic in every sense of the term.
This Hall in the memory of Sadananda Sinha is going to be a Hall where there is bound to be clash of ideas, debate, dissent and celebration of diverse interpretations of vast range of academic, social, economic and political issues. It was the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who while addressing Allahabad University in 1948 had insightfully stated that a university stands for reason, humanism and adventure of ideas and search for truth. How true he was indeed! In fact a student of economics department of Ravenshaw College in 1929 wrote a paper on “Extension of Franchise in India” and referred to the women’s movement in India and Odisha. Such a reference to women’s movement in 1929 brought out the maturity of understanding and perceptive appreciation of the student of Ravenshaw about the incipient movement of women for voting right and more opportunities for participation in larger arena of collective life. That student not only recognized women’s movement but also pleaded for reservation for women in legislative bodies so that they could be represented in large numbers in those bodies. He did so a year before Mahatma Gandhi had said that he would boycott the legislatures of India if it did not have more women in them. It was indeed remarkable that a student of Ravenshaw wrote about affirmative action for women for their adequate representation in legislative institutions. It represented a revolutionary idea in every sense of the term. Now the whole world is discussing and debating the issue for making the legislature more inclusive by ensuring election of more women to their fold. Such examples from the pages of history were indicative of the what Nehru called “the adventure of ideas” and “search for truth”.
This Conference Hall instituted in the name of Sadananda Sinha would become a forum for “adventure of ideas” and “search for truth”. Here the students, the faculty and other participants would engage themselves in thrashing ideas and clashing with diverse perspectives and thoughts. In fact such activities will result in transformation and translation of disaffection and discontents of students to positive energy for use in meaningful academic activities in this University.
While exploring ideas and thoughts of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar I found a profound question asked by him. He said, “What is the purpose of life?” Answering that question he stated that the purpose of life is cultivation of mind. In fact the life and work of Shri Sadananda Sinha was nothing but a fine example of cultivation of mind till his very last breath. I was told that even while in hospital in the last stage of his life he wanted his son Amit to brief him about the news broadcast in BBC radio. It was indicative of his ardent desire to remain updated with the developments in rest of the world and cultivate his mind. In fact this Conference Hall named after him aims at cultivation of mind of the students and teachers on a continuing basis in the pattern of numerous activities organized since the establishment of the Economics Department.
A multifaceted personality Late Shri Sadananda Sinha was known for excellence in many domains. He was also practitioner of Yoga. Today when so much is being talked about yoga and even international day of yoga is celebrated, it would be appropriate to have a Yoga session in this very Conference Hall and discuss the philosophy and principles behind Yoga. In using this Hall for such diverse purposes the confluential and plural approaches to pursue the world of knowledge can be undertaken. It would be consistent with the worldview of Shri Sadananda Sinha whose life was anchored on a confluential and integrated approach.
His worthy progeny has rendered valuable service in taking forward the cause of cultivation of mind. When Sinha family contacted me conveying the desire that it intended to do something in Ravenshaw in the name of Shri Sadananda Sinha I just suggested a few points and asked to get in touch with my friend professor Sangeeta Rath who is discharging administrative responsibilities as CCD of Ravenshaw University. It is heartening to see the fruition of their exemplary initiative in creating this modern Conference Hall. I express my gratefulness to them for giving me an opportunity to participate and share some thoughts on the occasion of its inauguration.
Thanks a lot to all the family members of late Shri Sadananda Sinha who represent the shining legacy of their father in very substantive ways. They provided me an opportunity to share some thoughts and the opportunity was indeed enriching and empowering. The memories concerning that event will endure. All of them have set a splendid example of spending their valuable resources and ideas in setting up a conference hall for the students and teachers so that they could pursue study, research and academic activities in Ravenshaw University.
It was truly a fulfilling experience to participate in the event which celebrated the idea of cultivation of mind which their father so authentically represented in his illustrious life and career and the Conference Hall would take forward that spirit . I pay my humble tributes to the departed soul and wish all those expected to use the Hall all success in their quest for engaging in meaningful academic activities.
# Mr SN Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to late President of India late Shri K.R.Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat.