ROURKELA: Rourkela erupted in joy when the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was announced the Nobel Peace Prize winner this year. For, the Steel city has a big connect with the contribution that won WFP the most prestigious award in the world.
It is the birthplace of Pranav Khaitan, member of the WFP’s Advisory Council and leader of its artificial intelligence (AI) operations, who is credited with bringing in tech-innovations that made the programme more effective and inclusive. The WFP has thanked Pranav for his leadership in pioneering the use of AI to revolutionize humanitarian operations which helped lifting hundreds of millions of people out of hunger.
Talking to The New Indian Express on phone, Pranav said, "I feel very happy and fortunate to have got the opportunity to serve WFP for betterment of humanity. I thank my parents, relatives and teachers for shaping my life for what I am today."
Pranav was born in the city, but his family is settled in Kolkata. His father Pawan Khaitan is a chartered accountant. His mother Usha belongs to Rourkela and had come home when Pranav was due. His younger brother Paras is dual degree holder in engineering and business administration from IIT-Kharagpur.
However, Pranav came back to Rourkela to complete his graduation in computer science and engineering from the National Institute of Technology-Rourkela (NIT-R) in 2009 and later did his Masters from Stanford University, USA.
He talked of the great memories of the time spent at the NIT-R campus with wonderful friends. “In the US, I greatly miss the aloo dum and dahibara sold on bicycles in Sector areas and gupchup on carts,” he said. Father Pawan did not hide his pride in speaking about his son.
"We as parents feel very fortunate and happy that Pranav has been able to contribute to this noble mission of eradicating global hunger. Since childhood, both our sons have been very fascinated by science and use science and technology to benefit the humanity," he said.
Pranav feels India’s technological capabilities have grown manifold over the past few years and the country is now viewed with respect. He recalled his discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, during the latter's visit to Google headquarters, on how cutting-edge technologies could be used for betterment of India’s population.NIT-R Director Animesh Biswas said ,"The campus is proud of Pranav and given chance, the institute’s alumni have always done wonders."