Our objectives are to promote, facilitate and share ideas/info in various development sectors in Odisha: Dr. Annapurna Pandey

The Orissa Society of the Americas (OSA) in Chicago has recently conducted one of its biggest convention from 5th -7th July 2013 bringing together about 1300 participants from different parts of North America as well as Odisha. People who have contributed to the development of Odisha in different fields such as culture and development were also invited and honoured. Dr. Annapurna Pandey, President of The Orissa Society of the Americas (OSA) in an interview with Dr. Sadananda Sahoo, Editor of GRFDT shared her views about the OSA.

Q. Congratulation Dr. Pandey for organising a huge convention and bringing together many prominent people from different area of expertise. As per the report there were about 1300-1400 people participated. How do you think the convention will help in engaging the diaspora with Odisha?

Thank you! Those of you who are regular readers of OSAnet/Utkarsa, must be familiar with the different programs OSA has been sponsoring in odisha, Starting with flood relief in 2011, Higher Education opportunity symposia, Buddhist Heritage and Culture initiatives, Invest Odisha initiatives among others. This has been very fruitful because our initiatives made several Odia students join various American Universities.

We are promoting the Heritage and culture of our state, specifically trying to revive its dormant Buddhist history, art, and architecture. Scholars and researchers in archaeology and art history have compared Ratnagiri and Puspagiri in Odisha with the well  known Nalanda, which is considered one of the first proto university of the world. However, not many know about this. We organized the buddhist symposium at this convention.

We are also promoting Odisha development and specifically Higher Education Opportunity for students in Odisha. Since 2011, OSA has created a committee on Development in Odisha. The Committee has explored, initiated, developed and executed some of the new ideas related to Odisha Development that may be realistically feasible through continuity by OSA, a socio-cultural and voluntary organization in North America.  

Our objective is to create a strategic framework on how to effectively use OSA voluntary systems and resources in support of Odisha Development through virtual networks.

The long term objectives are to promote, facilitate & share ideas/info in various development sectors in Odisha such as: virtual development, Invest Odisha, Higher Education, Social Entrepreneurship, and other developmental information exchanges between North America (USA/Canada) and Odisha (India).

Please check OSA Website (http://www.orissasociety.org/) for details.

Q. Do you think OSA can play a pivotal role in mobilising diaspora for large scale development engagement with Odisha? Is there any team in OSA or it is effort of few individuals?

As I have already said earlier, since 2011, when we took office, OSA has been very active in spearheading two very important projects which has yielded tangible results. As mentioned above, the Buddhist Heritage project in Odisha and our initiative to improve Higher Education in the state has been very fruitful because our initiatives made several Odia students join various American Universities. Last February the Culture and Tourism department of Odisha organized an international symposium on the Buddhist Heritage of Odisha. Many scholars presented their reports in the Odisha Development symposium at the 44th OSA convention in Chicago.

We will continue to remain active in these initiatives we have started in Odisha. The state government of Odisha has been very welcoming of our efforts.

Q.Most of the time, conventions and seminars generate lots of ideas but somehow that does not translate in to action mainly due to the lack of institutional structure at both ends. In last one decade of much hyped diasporic engagement, we find not many ideas translated into action. What is your opinion?

A. What you have said is completely true. But our experience of working with the state government has been very positive. There has been a great deal of synergy between OSA and the Odisha state government departments dealing with various development issues. As you are aware, the state government of Odisha has already announced a VISWA ODIA SAMMELANI in Dec, 2013.

The Odias in the UK are already in the process of building an Odisha Bhawan in London. Similarly, we are also planning to have an Odisha Bhawan in the United States of America. We are thinking of developing a museum for the Odia artefacts and promoting Odia culture and heritage in the USA. Our number is growing – Odias are in getting into very prominent positions in the United States. After being well established in the host society, OSA in its 44th year in USA is meaningfully contributing to its homeland. I see a very bright future for OSA - Odisha development.

Q. What are the areas where you find diaspora can contribute effectively to Odisha and vice versa? Areas where both diaspora and homeland will mutually benefit?

As approved by the general Body meeting in July, 2012, OSA annual convention will be a 3-day event, and the first day (July 4) to be devoted to symposia (Odisha Development, Invest Odisha, Higher Education, Culture Heritage, and other items).  July 4 day symposia will be coordinated by OSA Convention Team (convener, co-convener), OSA National EC and Odisha – Odisha Development Committee.

OSA- Odisha Development Committee has already been approved to be a permanent/continuing feature of OSA and renewed every 2 years.

December Symposium in Odisha, (rotate places).  OSA in partnership with Government of Odisha /Team Odisha/ Higher Education Dept/Tourism Dept and other organizations may co-organize a one-day symposia in Odisha covering July 4 symposium’s Odisha Development themes, proceedings and minutes.

Q. What are the major challenges you perceive in Diaspora’s participation in Odisha? How can it be addressed?

As you know OSA is a voluntary organization. We are seriously in need of more committed volunteers to continue this task. Also, OSA needs a well-defined and documented Information System, Policy and Guidelines in order to continue this project.  As one of the committee members explain, “Formalization for continuity irrespective of the OSA Executive Committee’s two year voluntary tenure in tandem with the prospective committee, volunteers & collaborating partners” is of paramount importance. 

Q.What is next after this convention?

It is just the beginning! We would like to continue the OSA- Odisha Development program as a part of OSA’s Constitutional Preamble, Vision and Mission. 

As OSA members, we are working on creating a future legacy through new generations, Odisha Development, OSA Development, the creation of an OSA Trust/Foundation/Endowment Fund in North America, and by formalizing a Master-MOU with the Government of Odisha and by partnering with Odisha and its people.

Secondly, we continue to remain active in some of the initiatives we have started in Odisha. The state government of Odisha has been very welcoming of our efforts.

The third thing is that we should continue to be inclusive; representatives of our state and our people who are here those of us who have a privileged lifestyle, should really share our good fortune with those brothers and sisters who feel left out and marginalized. “Isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?” with that ethos, let us personally connect with one another to build a stronger and more enriched community.


Dr Annapurna Pandey, President OSA, can be contacted at Email: [email protected]

The Orissa Society of the Americas (OSA),  established in 1969, is a non-political, non-profit, and voluntary association recognized as a 501(c)(3) public non-profit in the United States. The society was incorporated in 1981 in Tennessee as a non-profit corporation for promoting activities for a better understanding of Oriya culture and exchange of information between Orissa, United States and Canada. 

Interview Date:   Thursday, Jul 18, 2013
Person Name:   Dr. Annapurna Pandey

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