By Ayush Sidhant
Born to eminent freedom-fighter late Raghunath Patnaik and Smt. Harabala Patnaik on 10th April, 1941 in village Olasingh of erstwhile Puri district, presently under Khurda district , Prasanta Patnaik got his schooling in the village schools and college education in S.C.S. College, Puri and Ravenshaw College, Cuttack under Utkal University.
Since journalism was his first love Patnaik started reporing campus news for the Eastern Times , a daily newspaper published from Cuttack ,under editorship of Janki Ballav Patnaik , while he was a student of Ravenshaw College. He was also associated with monthly literary magazine Dagaro, founded by Kantakabi Laxmikant and edited by famous writers Nityananada Mohapatra and Faturananda. While a Post Graduate student of English literature in Ravenshaw College in 1964 , Patnaik edited " Chandrika " a monthly Oriya magazine devoted to literature, art and culture. At that time he was the acknowledged as the youngest editor in Orissa.
After completing M.A., Patnaik was appointed as a lecturer in a private College. But he preferred to take up journalism as his career and joined the Cuttack edition of Amrita Bazar Patrika (now defunct). Besides reporting for the newspaper Patnaik also successfully tried his hand in photo-journalism, when newspaper photography was monopolized by studio wallahs who were mostly believing in head-hunting, i.e. taking photographs of V.I.P.s only . Patnaik gave a new dimension to photo-journalism in Orissa by highlighting problems of the common men through his camera.
After serving for over two years in the Amrita Bazar Patrika, Prasanta quit his job and joined the Kalinga, an Oriya daily published by Biju Ptnaik and edited by famous novelist and literary giant Surendra Mohanty . He was posted at Bhubaneswar as the State capital correspondent of the daily. He started a weekly column " Rajadhani Chithi " in the Kalinga highlighting the socio-cultural problems of the capital, which soon became popular. Being encouraged by editor Surendra Mohanty, Prasanta tried his hand in investigative journalism and exposed the misdeeds of many highly placed politicians and bureaucrats. However he was continuing with photo-journalism also and was contributing news-photographs to a number of local and national newspapers and magazines. After sudden closure of the Kalinga, Patnaik joined Hindusthan Samachar , a multi-lingual news agency functioning with veteran journalist Debendra Nath Mohanty as the head of Orissa bureau .
Soon Prasanta switched over to " Patriot " daily and " LINK " weekly published from New Delhi , with famous scribes Edatata Narayan as the chairman of editorial board and P. Viswanath as the editor , under direct patronization of Smt. Aruna Asaf Ali. Being the youngest reporter in the organization, Smt. Asaf Ali took fancy on him and encouraged him much to continue with photo-journalism and investigative reporting to safeguard the interests of the downtrodden without compromising with the vested interests.
While working for "Patriot" and "LINK" , Patnaik also wrote and contributed photographs to many national and international print media. His contribution and photographs were published in INDIA TODAY, SUNDAY, ONLOOKER, Caravan, Mirror, Eve's Weekly, Femina , Times of India, Current , BLITZ , Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Illustrated Weekly of India, Bhavan's Journal, Dharmayug, Everyman's , Ravivar , Indian Express, Evidence , Hindusthan Times , Der Spigel etc. He also worked for international photo-news agencies Pan-Asian Newspaper Alliance and Land & Life Photo-News Agency, through which a number of his news-photographs on Orissa floods, drought , super cyclone and other natural calamities could get their way to the pages of many international publications and drew the attention of Delhi Durbar in a better manner. Photographs taken by Patnaik were also used in the calendars IMFA. Rourkela Steel Pnat, SAIL, Orissa Tourism Development Corporation etc. One of his photographs of Biju Patnaik was used by the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department as a Postage stamp. Patnaik gave a new twist to Oriya magazine journalism by introducing illustrated features, which was first pioneered by " Asantakali " published from Calcutta, with Srikanta Panda as its editor.
Patnaik was also associated with Oriya weekly Tuesday and daily Khabarkagaj , which were edited and published by his close friend and brother-in-law Dhiren Patnaik . Khabarkagaj was the first Oriya daily to introduce daily feature pages to meet the requirement of all section of readers . Both the publications were shut down after death of Dhiren Patnaik , when Tuesday had a record circulation among the then Oriya weeklies.
Patnaik had experimented with his own publication " Chandrika " as a monthly news and feature magazine and finally as a broadsheet news weekly , which were first of their kind in Oriya language.
Though Prasanta was having good personal relationship of chief ministers and senior politicians like Dr. Hare Krushna Mahtab , Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo , Nandini Satpathy , Biju Patnaik , Janaki Ballav Patnaik etc. he never hesitated to boldly expose their anti-people stands. For this he was badly victimized by the management of "Patriot" and "LINK" , who were hand in gloves with the then Congress rules of the State, after which he immediately joined Newstime English daily and Eenadu Telugu daily published from Hyderabad. Despite Patnaik continuing with Newstime and Eenadu , he was denied accreditation by the J.B. Patnaik Government only to throw him out from the Government quarter allotted to him as an accredited journalist. The Government was sore on him as he had fought for justice in the Chhbirani Murder Case as the General Secretary of Orissa Journalist Union and raised voice against atrocities on newsmen anywhere in the State. He was also instrumental in highlighting the atrocities on Anjana Mishra . There were murderous attempts on his life and on his family members by anti-socials patronized by some politicians. Finally Patnaik was evicted from the Government quarters in a winter night while his wife Chandraprava was suffering from brain injury in a road accident. Such action of J.B. Patnaik Government was badly condemned by the national media, and Arun Shouri , the then editor of Indian Express wrote two editorials on the incident. However Prasanta was not perturbed at all. He consoled his friends and sympathizers saying that the J.B. Patnaik Government has made him the richest journalist of the country , though not materially , but through experience , as he might be the only journalist to experience State sponsored atrocities and eviction .
By his own right Patnaik was granted with accreditation. He became the Chief of Newstime and Eenadu's Orissa bureau. When ETV Telugu channel was launched he also headed the ETV team in Orissa . Finally he retired from ETV and Eenadu group and worked for Rajat Sharma's " Aaj Ki Baat " in Star Plus channel . Under his able guidance interview of Dara Singh, accused with killing of Christian missionary Graham Steins and his two sons , taken by Binoy Patnaik was aired when the Orissa police were hunting for his head frantically . He was one of the few electronic media person to reach the super-cyclone affected areas of Jagatsinghpur at the earliest opportunity and gave maximum coverage to the human sufferings . When Rajat Sharma launched his INDIA TV , Patnaik joined the channel as head of Orissa bureau and till date is continuing as such.
Prasanta was the founder of Eastern Press Agency and Associated Media Foundation and had inspired many young journalists to take up journalism and photo-journalism as profession.
Patnaik, who is known as one of the closest person of Biju Patnaik and had made a tele-film " JUGA SARATHI " on him , was also very critical of Biju , while he was in power But that had never strained his relationship with Biju babu. Though Prasanta was a bitter critic of Nandini Satpathy while she was the Chief Minister of Orissa, Satpathy had tremendous love and appreciation for him .
Prasanta claims that his ideal was his father late Raghunath Patnaik, who was an ardent believer of Marxism till his death but had faith on non-violence, had never hankered after power and devoted his life for the cause of the poorest of the poor. He says he could not have become a journalist without active encouragement of his father, who himself was a columnist and fought against corruption and social evils. He feels obliged to his mother Harabala who has silently supported his actions. He always thanks wife Chndraprava , sons Partha and Subrat ; daughters Padmaja and Puspaja who had smilingly shared his sufferings during the worst days of State sponsored torture and have stood solidly behind him .
Patnaik is the second child of his parents who had four sons and nine daughters. His third brother Dr. Pragati Patnaik fell victim to the bullets of the extremists in Nagaland a few years ago. Now Prasanta is the proud grand father of four grand sons and a grand daughter .
Though he is often branded as an " anti-Government journalist ", Prasanta says, he is a "pro-people scribe" .
Prasanta is perhaps one of the few scribes in the country who have the experience of working in all the branches of media such as , the print media ( Oriya , English and Telugu ) , news agency , visual media ( photo-journalism ) , electronic media and the web. He is the Editor of
" odisha.com " the first Oriya news portal which is the largest viewed Oriya portal round the globe.
He is also a creative writer. His published works include four short-story collections , two novels, a dozen of suspense novels , a book on Lok Sabaha polls in Orissa, Oriya translation of Alexander Puskin's " Queen of Spades " . He has four short-story collections to his credit , those are ANDHAKARA RA KABYA ( EPIC OF DARKNESS ), PUNASCHA ANDHAR
( DARKNESS AGAIN) , RAVAN PODI (BURNING OF RAVAN ) and KRUSHNACHUDA RA RANGA ( COLOURS OF BOUGENVILLA ).
Patnaik has received a number of awards and citations to his credit for journalism , photo-journalism and creative writing . He was the first journalist to receive Viswa Sambad Kendra's " Narad Samman " in 2003, ' Jeevan Ranga Award" in 1983 ," Chalapatha" Award in 1994 , " Padma Keshari Award " in 1991 , " Kalinga Mail Award " in 1991 , " Prativa Pranam 2006 " by Aaji Kali daily , life-time contribution to Photo-Journalism from Swarajya daily and a host of other awards and citations .
Patnaik is one of the most popular TV panelists who participates in various TV programmes of ETV, OTV, Kamyab TV, Naxatra TV, Door Darshan and MBC TV. He is the only media person who had featured in " Sidha Katha" programme of ETV.
Patnaik was a member of Orissa State Housing Board from 2000 to 2005 and had tried his best to safeguard the interests of the Board and its employees. He is the only member of the Board since its inception, who did not accept the sitting fees meant for the members for attending the meeting of the Board.
Prasanta also taught photo-journalism in Berhampur University, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, AMIT and IMS Bhubaneswar as a guest faculty.
Prasanta Patnaik can be contacted by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
And Cell No: 09437005118.