During freedom struggle nationalism was largely understood in terms of independence of our country from British rule. The movement for liberation of India from colonial subjugation under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi represented creative, constructive and inclusive nationalism which embraced in its scope the spirit of service to the people particularly the poor and downtrodden. As early as 23rd July 1925 Gandhiji wrote in Young India that that the feeling of kinship with the masses constituted the real spirit of nationalism. On 15th December 1927 he wrote about healthy nationalism and stated that it "embraces within its fold the poor and the downtrodden". On 27th August 1947 while addressing a prayer meeting in Delhi he flagged the service dimension of nationalism and said "A nationalist would ever think of service, never of power or riches".
Among numerous pronouncements of Gandhiji on nationalism the above three instances clearly affirmed that he linked it with service to people. If we juxtapose Gandhiji's ideas on nationalism in the current context of twenty first century India marked by ascendency of nationalism narrative, we find that it is often manifested by recitation of Bharat Mata ki Jai by some and raising of Jai Hind and Inquilab Zindabad slogans by some others to prove their patriotism and establish their nationalistic credentials. Many others feel that there are a variety of avenues and activities through which people of India express their patriotism. It is in this context appropriate to quote Swami Vivekananda who in his book "Lectures from Colombo to Almora" defined patriotism from the perspective of service rendered to people to remove hunger, poverty and ignorance. It is quite possible that a citizen may prefer not to recite any slogan and yet be a proud Indian by serving the people and empowering them.
The understanding that service to the people means nationalism is assuming greater and wider significance. It is rather fascinating that nationalism understood from the perspective of service to people constitutes an authentic and unmistakable demonstration of nationalistic spirit.
In May 2019 the celebrated media personality Shri Vinod Sharma, Political Editor of Hindustan Times, stationed in New Delhi, tweeted that Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik's good administration constituted real nationalism. It was for the first time that a prominent figure from the world of journalism located the excellent administrative ability of Shri Patnaik in the context of nationalism.
Shri Sharma's tweet came in the backdrop of Fani cyclone, the severity of which was equal in magnitude to the super cyclone of 1999. It hit Odisha in the first week of May 2019. The Naveen Patnaik Government shifted 1.7 million people to safe places in record time. It was first such example in history that such vast masses of people were shifted in a span of twenty four hours and they were saved from near certain death that would have inevitably visited them because of the ferocity of the cyclone. The whole world applauded the exemplary record of administrative efficiency manifested in successfull management of disaster. Shri Vinod Sharma tweeted and hailed Shri Patnaik and said, “What a political-administrative commando is this man @Naveen_Odisha. Showed his skill in minimizing casualties and sufferings in nature’s surgical strike#Odisha. Good administration is real nationalism. Salutes!”
The first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter to the Chief Ministers in 1950 stated very insightfully that “Indeed, every calamity is a challenge to our nationhood….and nation is ultimately judged by the way this challenge is accepted.” In ensuring almost zero human casualties in face of a natural disaster of apocalyptic proportions Shri Patnaik stood up to the challenge confronted by our nation. In this sense he upheld nationalism woven around human security and safeguarding right to life from which flows all other rights and entitlements.
It is striking that Shri Vinod Sharma’s innovative understanding of Shri Naveen Patnaik’s extraordinary administrative efficiency as true and real nationalism is in tune with words of a citizen who spoke to Anjali Aitwal at NDTV after the Delhi Assembly elections results were declared. He said, “True nationalists are those who work to alleviate ordinary citizens’ real and concrete needs without favour or discrimination.”
It is heartening that nationalism is now understood in terms of administrative efficiency to protect lives of the people, provide basic services to them and make governance people centric. It is being done in Odisha for the last twenty years and now it is being deepened and expanded through Mo Sarkar, "My Government", by employing Five Ts- Technology, Transparency, Timeliness, Team spirit and Transformation. In ensuring people’s easy access to government service and giving primacy to people over Government servants and people’s representatives who are the servants of people, the Mo Sarkar idea anchored on Five Ts has affirmed nationalism in a more positive and creative manner. Such positive nationalism celebrates the ideal of inclusion and empowers people to have trust and confidence on the Government which is at the disposal of the people for their service. Such positive and inclusive nationalism negates exclusion. It ensures governance “Unto the Last,” the three words of Ruskin’s hymn which Gandhi often invoked.
Odisha is now acclaimed nationally for the highest reduction of poverty during the last twenty years. Public policies implemented for this purpose has uplifted millions of people from vicious cycle of poverty. Many other robust public policies such as KALIA(Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation) scheme has not only benefitted farmers but also landless people and share croppers. KALIA has now become a model for rest of India. Biju Swashtya Kalyan Yojana has provided for near universal health care services to people free of cost irrespective of their income or economic status. The empowerment of women through Mission Shakti and the enlistment of seven million women in self help groups across the State is truly exemplary. It has unleashed women's movement which in turn has heralded a new dawn for them and for the whole State. In reaching out to the suffering humanity the Government of Odisha has ensured that the services meant for them are made available in a more effective manner.
Shri Naveen Patnaik has taken an initiative called Odisha Mo Paribar, "Odisha My Family", which is the social service unit of the Biju Janata Dal. While launching the initiative he recalled the legacy of Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das who was an epitome of service and sacrifice for the cause of freedom of India. The idea of Odisha Mo Paribar encapsulates in its scope environmental protection, blood donation and reaching out to Odias who are outside the State and country. The functionaries associated with Odisha Mo PaRIBAR have rescued several Odias who became victims of distress and exploitation in rest of India and foreign countries. This is yet another heartening example of service to people beyond the frame work of Government which is normally associated with power and authority.
Slightly more than hundred years back Gandhiji in his article “Indians Abroad” published in Young India on 17th December 1919 presciently observed, “Not until we feel for the meanest of our countrymen as each one of us feels for himself, can we be said to have a consciousness of our nationality.”
It is heartening that Gandhi's understanding of nationality and nationalism is embodied in the people centric governance adopted in Odisha. This should be transformational nationalism and governance for India of twenty first century.