K Viswanathan, popularly known as Mitraniketan Viswanathan, passed away at a private hospital here on Monday early morning. He was 86. He was hospitalised one week ago owing to heart-related problems.
The body was brought to Mitraniketan at 9 a.m. and kept at the Vellanad grama panchayat hall for the public to pay homage and cremated on the Mitraniketan campus in the evening. He is survived by wife Sethu Viswanathan, daughters Asha, Beena and Chitra and sons-in-law Reghu Ramdas and Rama Babu. Viswanathan founded Mitraniketan, a non-governmental organisation, at his native village Vellanad in 1956, which works in the fields of innovation, training and extension in community development, environment, science, education and appropriate technology.
He served as the director of Mitraniketan till the end. A recipient of Padma Shri in 2009, the name of Viswanathan was synonymous with voluntary social action and he was widely recognised for his vision and commitment to the cause of socially marginalised people. An alumni of Shantiniketan, he has to his credit several innovative interventions which were widely replicated. He was the patron of Kerala Voluntary Action League, a network of non-governmental organisations.
Born in 1928, Viswanathan was educated at Visva-Bharati University, in the USA and in Scandinavia and founded Mitraniketan, The Home of Friends, after returning to India. He was a winner of many awards and fellowships, including Platinum Jubilee Endowment Trust Award by Indian Merchants Chamber, K P Goenka Award for Environment by Asian Cables Foundation and The Jamnalal Bajaj Award for application of science and technology in rural areas.