‘He spent a lifetime making
the world a better place’
Maryland Assemblywoman Aruna Miller on the many lives
that Sambhu Banik has touched.
Dr Sambhu Banik is a happy man. And it’s not just because he is receiving the India Abroad Award for Life Time Service to the Community 2012.
Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali Nobel Prize-winning
poet, once said, ‘Man’s abiding happiness is not in getting
anything but in giving himself up to what is greater than
himself, to ideas which are larger than his individual life,
the idea of his country, of humanity, of God.’
Dr Banik has indeed given of himself to causes greater
than himself and has tirelessly spent a lifetime making
the world a better place.
Among his many accomplishments as a public servant,
he has had an extensive career in the field of psychology
and mental health while serving an incredible number of
posts where he provided services to those with mental
and physical challenges.
In 1971, he joined the Mental Health Administration
where he served the residents of the District of Columbia
in various capacities, including a position as the chief,
South Community Mental Health Center to the Clinical
In 1990, Dr Banik, was given the honor of being the
first Indian American appointed by President George H
W Bush to serve as the executive director, President’s
Committee on People with Mental Retardation, where he
championed the rights of the mentally retarded and disabled individuals.
One of his defining moments in this position was the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a monumental achievement that protects Americans with disabilities from discrimination.
In his current positions as president, Banik and
Associates, and adjunct professor, Bowie State and Union
Universities, he continues to provide support for the community by offering guidance for graduate students in psychology and consultation on various aspects of mental
health to the community and a large number of organizations and courts.
More remarkable than these professional lifetime accomplishments, it is the compassionate and artistic man with
the generous soul that is larger than life.
When Dr Banik walks into a room, the air crackles, the
room’s energy is instantly turbo charged and the feeling of
well-being magically touches everyone. He is generous with
his praise, is engaging, empathetic, and full of life. If you
want to an instant mood boost, the best remedy is a few
moments with him.
Not only has Dr Banik demonstrated the ingenuity to find
solutions to the most pressing mental and physical health
issues, but the compassion to identify with those that are
suffering from them the most.
His commitment to mental health and social justice has
inspired a generation of people to take up the call for pub-
Sambhu Banik, center, with Aruna Miller, right.
institution, Bowie State University, where he has a
long history of endorsing racial equality and
female empowerment while teaching students
how to solve mental health challenges. As a member of the staff, he was well regarded by students
and staff as a trailblazer for human progress. He
received many accolades and was voted by the students as one of the university’s best professors.
Throughout his career, he has also been determined to uphold the image and integrity of his
home country, India, and has been instrumental
in promoting India-US relations.
He was the founder and president of Prabashi,
Inc, an organization created to promote better
understanding and a better relationship among
the people of India and USA. He was involved as
the president of the India Cultural Coordinating
Committee, US-Asia Foundation, Association of
Indians in America, Indian American Forum for
In addition to this, he has provided training and seminars
to institutions in India on various aspects of disability and
mental retardation and mental illness over the years as well
as gave lectures to various parts of the US on India’s crafts,
arts, music, dances and cuisines.
It is due to his influence in Indian affairs that he was
invited by the Government of India to visit Bhopal after the
Bhopal Gas disaster to provide much needed mental
health-related services to the families of Bhopal Gas victims.
Recently, he actively participated on the grassroots level
for the passage of the historic US-India Civilian Nuclear
As an Indian-American woman, I am indebted to him for
closing the divide between men and women as well as
improving the health of people in India and the United
We owe a great deal to those individuals that are larger
than life. I am moved by leaders like Sambhu Banik who
refuse to accept injustice as a norm and that remind us
every day that each of us is capable of making a difference
in our community and that we can lay the foundation for a
better society. ;
COUR TES Y: ARUNA MILLER
lic action. In fact, he has devoted over 20 years to the
advancement of the Thakur Hari Prasad Institute for the
mentally handicapped in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
In 2011, I had the pleasure of visiting THPI. I was so
struck by the level of nurturing, commitment, and dedication the staff provided to the residents. Like Dr Banik, they
are committed to working hard for our most vulnerable
members and speak for those with no voice.
Through his work in mental and developmental disabilities, Dr Banik reminds us that being mentally and physically handicapped does not mean that you are any different
than your peers. With guiding hands each and every human
being that has been given the gift of life is capable of great
things and can reach their full potential with the support of
In addition to improving the quality of life for the disabled, Dr Banik been a pioneer in the field of human rights,
breaching divisive barriers to racial and social equality, and
reminding us what it means to be male and female in a way
that embraces understanding and equality.
He is the only Indian American who was appointed by the
Governor of Maryland and the Montgomery County
Executive as Commissioner of both the State’s and County’s
Human Rights Commissions. He was elected as Education
and Outreach Committee chairman of the Human Rights
Commission to provide communitywide education on the
importance of human rights in all affairs.
Since 1972, he served as a professor at a historically black
Aruna Miller is the first Indian-American woman legislator in the Maryland General Assembly.
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