Bhubaneswar: The founder of Bhubaneswar’s SUM Hospital and Institute of Medical Sciences, where a massive fire killed 21 people, is known as a reclusive man with strong political connections.
While four officials of the private hospital have been arrested and four other employees suspended, the clamour to arrest Manoj Nayak, who is on the run, is growing by the day.
Before he made it big in early 2000, the 56-year-old engineer was known mostly among his fraternity as a teacher in a government engineering college. Born to a school teacher father in the undivided Cuttack district, Nayak excelled in academics in school and college.
He joined Bhubaneswar’s College of Engineering Technology (CET), as a lecturer in computer science. While still teaching at CET, he established the Siksha O Anusandhan Trust and also founded Odisha’s first private, Institute of Technical Education and Research (ITER).
At least 10 institutions including a medical college, an engineering college, dental college, biotechnology college, and nursing college among others function under the Siksha O Anusandhan University.
Nayak, however, has smartly dissociated himself from the board of management of the university preferring to work behind the scene. The official website of the Siksha O Anusandhan University does not even mention Nayak’s name.
Described as a very ambitious man, Nayak had his first brush with controversy in 2000 when the authorities of the state government’s Joint Entrance Examination that conducts entrance test to engineering colleges, lodged a case of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy against him and several others.
It was alleged that Nayak and his brother were luring students, who had secured lower ranks in the Joint Entrance Examination, to take admission in his fledgeling engineering college.
The police chargesheet mentioned that ITER made payment on behalf of these students so that the college could claim the seats were filled up. It would then persuade the same candidates to leave the college after paying them and get other undeserving candidates to take admission in the same seat in lieu of a huge amount of money.
Nayak evaded arrest even though he was named in the chargesheet. He also managed to get a reprieve after the Odisha high court quashed the case a few years later.
Friends describe Nayak as overtly reclusive but he has never shied away from using his political clout. With familial ties to former BJD minister Nalinikanta Mohanty, they say Nayak used his political contacts to expand his business.
He is allegedly close to several influential ministers in the Naveen Patnaik ministry. Local TV channels reported that the wife of Odisha health minister even worked as a faculty in one of the educational institutions owned by Nayak.
Nayak started the SUM Hospital in 2006 on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar and a few years later founded a medical and dental college. Until recently, the hospital provided consultation and beds to patients free of cost.