Bhubaneswar, : India has been making great progress in different fields including science and education but the need of the hour is national integration as people needed to understand the importance of unity, Odisha’s minister for Science and Technology, Social Security, Public Enterprises and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Ashok Chandra Panda said on Thursday.

“We need to understand our heritage is one. India’s civilization is 5000 years old,” Mr. Panda said while addressing NSS volunteers from 20 states attending a week-long National Integration Camp at Siksha ‘O’ Anusandhan (SOA). He was the chief guest at the inaugural programme of the camp.

“When we go abroad, we always identify ourselves as Indians and don’t mention the state we come from because it comes later,” he said.

Recalling that he was a Group Leader in NSS during his college days, the minister said it was a great movement to unite the people.

Mr. Panda said the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi had drawn people from all parts of India to join the freedom struggle against the British rulers. The Mahatma’s influence on Odisha was immense as he had visited the state eight times.

He urged the participants in the camp to make it a point to visit the Gandhi Peace Centre and the Odisha State Tribal Museum in Bhubaneswar before they left the city as they would get to know the contributions made by the Mahatma and the diverse tribal culture of Odisha.

The minister said that Odisha Chief Minister, Mr. Naveen Patnaik had urged the Government of India to include non-violence in the preamble of the Indian Constitution.

Altogether 210 volunteers from 20 states are attending the camp which will continue till December 21.

SOA Vice-Chancellor Prof. (Dr.) Ashok Kumar Mahapatra presided over the function which was also addressed by Ms. Sarita Patel, Regional Director of NSS in Bhubaneswar and Prof. Jyoti Ranjan Das, SOA’s Dean (Students’ Welfare). SOA’s Director for University Outreach Programme and NSS Coordinator Prof. Nachieketa K. Sharma conducted the programme.

Prof. Mahapatra also emphasized on the need for oneness for achieving unity saying he was a NSS volunteer as a MBBS student in 1970. Though the Indian people followed different religious faiths the need was for sinking all differences by putting the country first, he said.

He said SOA was a multidisciplinary university with focus on research and was ranked 20th in the country by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in 2021.

Ms. Patel said the country had 40 lakh NSS volunteers which made it one of the biggest organizations while Mr. Das described the organization as an excellent platform for personality development.

Mr. Smruti Ranjan Das, District NSS Officer from Mayurbhanj, proposed the vote of thanks.

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