Odisha had a special place in the heart of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation. Mahatma visited Odisha eight times and I am glad that this August Assembly, is commemorating the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s first visit to Odisha on 23rd March, 1921. During his visits to Odisha, Mahatma Gandhi had extensively travelled in different parts of the State and interacted with crosssections of the people. He took many Padayatras throughwhich he became very close to the hearts of people of Odisha. His visits created greater awareness about various social issues apart from energizing the Freedom Movement.
Of all the things that this country has given the world, Gandhi’s philosophy and his message stands out as one of its greatest contribution.
These are no ordinary times. As we battle the pandemic, one can’t help but reflect on the collective nature of this challenge we face. The world has been strongly reminded that no bubbles of wealth and growth matter if large sections of the population live in poverty and vulnerability. We are all connected, and the Mahatma’s life and its message is more important than ever. His emphasis on the shunning of individual greed and his exhortation to think of the community is the reminder that the world needs.
There is also an increasing polarisation and divisiveness globally. Gandhi’s commitment to pluralism and his message of tolerance and harmony is as relevant now as it was then. The Mahatma’s non-violent resistance is a spark that ignited peaceful movement around the world.
And what better place to remember this eternal idea than on this land, the Land of Kalinga, that inspired the repudiation of war by Ashoka two millennium ago. I recall, Martin Luther King, JR once said. “If Humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable… We may ignore at own risk” I consider this statement to be relevant for today’s world as well.
When Mahatma came to Odisha for the first time in 1921 Odisha was not a separate Province. The aspirations of Millions of Odia speaking people became a reality in 1936. When Gandhi came to Odisha for the last time in January, 1946, Odisha was nearly a decade old, as a linguistic Province. How the people of Odisha judiciously blended their linguistic, regional aspirations with the National Goal was a brilliant case study.
I take this opportunity to say that my Government is totally committed to the Principles and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Renaming our Secretariat as “Loka Seba Bhawan” was not a symbolism. It is our Article of Faith. As this August House pays its tributes to Mahatma, with a sense of gratitude, let me conclude by reminding ourselves the Talisman, Gandhi gave to us. I quote:
“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”