Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik hailed globally for setting excellent benchmark of disaster management and saving precious human lives has decided not to celebrate his birth day falling on 16th October 2020 in view of the prevailing COVID pandemic which itself is a man made disaster gravely endangering health, human and economic security across the world. Last year in 2019 he also preferred not to celebrate his birth day because of devastation faced by people and the State of Odisha due to Fani Cyclone, a natural disaster the magnitude of which was equal to super cyclone of 1999. He had appealed people not to visit Naveen Nivas to extend birth day greetings to him and rather thoughtfully pleaded them to spend time in visiting orphanages and serving children there. He had also urged them to visit institutions where physically challenged and differently abled children stay and do something worthwhile for their welfare and happiness. Besides, he had also asked people to visit blood donation camps and donate blood generously. Apart from exhorting people not to come and extend birth day wishes to him and appealing them to undertake noble activities by serving those who suffer he had requested them last year to engage in similar activities on the occasion of celebration of memorable days associated with their lives.
Appeal for Blood and Plasma Donation Informed by Compassion and Care
This year also on the occasion of his 74th birth day he has invoked the ideals of service and appealed to people to donate blood and plasma which are invaluable for treating patients and particularly those infected with novel coronavirus. In many cases involving COVID infected patients plasma therapy has been found be life saving and there are numerous instances when precious human lives have been snatched from jaws of death by administering plasma to the victims of COVID pandemic. His appeal for donation of blood and plasma in such times of trial and tribulations bring out his sensitivities to the sufferings of people who are dealing with a new virus about which even the medical fraternity is still learning.The grave and upsetting effects of the virus on our health and economy is getting unfolded and it is now painfully realized that there is no easy remedy to salvage humanity from this pandemic. Therefore, it is well said that remedy for this pandemic would flow only from collective action. Shri Patnaik’s appeal to people to donate blood and plasma on the occasion of his birth day is an appeal for collective action to deal with the pandemic.
Such humanistic and uplifting ideas associated with the decision of Shri Patnaik not to celebrate his birth day and his prescription to his well wishers to donate blood and plasma bring out his worldview informed by compassion and his deep affinity and kinship for the victims of COVID.
Such noble appeal of Chief Minister Shri Patnaik reminds us of the decision of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, to celebrate his birth day, falling on 2nd October, in a manner which would bring out the caring, creative and lofty values associated with the freedom struggle of our country. It is all the more significant to recall those wholesome and constructive aspects associated with the decision of Gandhiji to celebrate his birth day when the country, a few days back celebrated his 151st birth anniversary.
Mahatma Gandhi Stressed on Service on his his Birth Day
In 1942 Gandhiji observed “There is no point in having birthday celebrations of any person without any definite end in view, otherwise they must be confined to just the innocent rejoicings of relatives and friends”.He did not want to reduce his birth day celebrations to routine and commonplace merry making events and, therefore, wanted that people should observe his birth day as Charkha Day and engage themselves in spinning, praying and fasting. Such spinning activities dedicated for the cause of the nation as part of sacrificing oneself for the freedom of India from British rule and economic empowerment and independence of millions of poor and deprived people remained at the heart of birth day celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.
Even though Mahatma Gandhi had the ambition to live for 125 years he did not want to celebrate his birth day in an usual manner. He always wanted to associate his birth day with some higher and loftier cause. When his 75th birth anniversary was being celebrated a souvenir volume containing articles of illustrious personalities like Albert Einstein, Pearl S. Buck and Verrier Elwin was brought out. He was asked to write a foreword. He was not willing to do so. When it was informed to him that the sale proceeds of the volume would be used for the cause of poor he readily agreed and wrote “Who can accept the propriety of my writing a preface for this
venture? But if by doing so, I can help fill the purse for the poor, why need I hesitate? I understand this is not meant to be a presentation volume. The profit from its sale will add to the purse to be presented to me for Daridranarayana. A few words from me by way of a foreword will, they argue, help the sale. This is enough temptation for me”. So Gandhiji was elevating the routine celebrations of his birth day to a higher and exalted level by associating it with sublime values.
It was again evident in 1947 when he completed 78 years of age and his last birth day was celebrated on 2nd October 1947. At that time in Delhi communal frenzy had gripped the minds of both Hindus and Muslims and Hindus were out to kill Muslims in the streets citing the ground that Hindus in Pakistan were being killed by Muslims in Pakistan. He wrote, “If you really want to celebrate my birthday, it is your duty not to let anyone be possessed by madness and if there is any anger in your hearts you must remove it. I would appeal to the people not to take the law into their hands but leave it to the Government to decide the issue. If you remember this much, I would consider it a good act on your part.”
Naveen’s Appeal for Service on his birth day is evocative of Gandhi’s Example
Appealing to the good sense of people to get back sanity and strength when humanity itself became a casualty in face of communal conflagration became the central concern of Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of his birth day. It is gratifying to see that Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik is doing the same thing on his birth day when 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji is being celebrated across the nation. Shri Patnaik on his birth day on 16th October is telling his well wishers to serve by donating blood and plasma which would be useful to those in need of medical and health care in COVID pandemic era. No wonder that on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Gandhiji Shri Patnaik passionately advocated for inclusion of non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution of India. Happy birth day to Shri Naveen Patnaik.
.The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.