After independence, the University Grants Commission, headed by S. Radhakrishnan, recommended the introduction of voluntary national service in academic institutions. This idea was again considered by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) at its meeting in January, 1950; after examining the idea and the experiences of other countries in this field, the board recommended that students and teachers should devote time to voluntary manual work. In the draft first Five-Year Plan adopted by the government in 1952, the need for social and labour service by Indian students for one year was stressed. In 1958, Jawaharlal Nehru, in a letter to the chief ministers, considered the idea of social service as a prerequisite for graduation. He directed the Ministry of Education to formulate a suitable scheme for the introduction of national service into academic institutions.
Launch of NSS
In May 1969, a conference of student representatives (of universities and institutions of higher education) convened by the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission also unanimously agreed that a national-service scheme could be an instrument for national integration. The details were soon worked out and orientation camp was organized at Rajghat. This camp was concluded on 7 June 1969. KKGupta from University of Delhi was declared first volunteer. The Planning Commission sanctioned an outlay of ₹5 crores for the NSS during the Fourth Five-Year Plan, stipulating that the NSS be a pilot project in selected institutions and universities. On 24 September 1969, the then Union Education Minister V.K.R.V. Rao launched the NSS at 37 universities across all states. The scheme has been extended to all states and universities in the country, and also 10+2 level institutes in many states.
Symbol of NSS
The symbol for the NSS has been based on the giant Rath Wheel of the world-famous Konark Sun Temple (The Black Pagoda) situated in Odisha, India. The wheel portrays the cycle of creation, preservation and release. It signifies the movement in life across time and space, the symbol thus stands for continuity as well as change and implies the continuous striving of NSS for social change. The eight bars in the wheel represent 24 hours of a day. The red colour indicates that the volunteer is full of young blood that is lively, active, energetic and full of high spirit. The navy blue colour indicates the cosmos of which the NSS is tiny part, ready to contribute its share for the welfare of the mankind. It stands for continuity as well as change and implies the continuous striving of NSS.
The programme aims to instill the idea of social welfare in students, and to provide service to society without bias. NSS volunteers work to ensure that everyone who is needy gets help to enhance their standard of living and lead a life of dignity. In doing so, volunteers learn from people in villages how to lead a good life despite a scarcity of resources. It also provides help in natural and man-made disasters by providing food, clothing and first aid to the disaster's victims.
At national level, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Delhi, Government of India, is the nodal authority, which works with state-level NSS cells. State-level NSS cells are responsibility of the respective state governments. Within states, each university has University level NSS cell under which institutions (schools and colleges) based NSS units operate. Most government and government-aided institutions have volunteer NSS units. Institutions are encouraged to have NSS volunteers. A unit typically comprises 20–40 students. They are managed internally by a responsible party from the school or college, who reports to the regional NSS coordinator. Most institutions do not have a separate uniform for NSS volunteers as one of the great and dedicated towards the welfare of India.
Types of Activities
There are two types of activities: Regular Activities (120 hours) and Annual Special Camp (120 hours). All the NSS Volunteers who have served NSS for at least 2 years and have performed 240 hours of work under NSS are entitled to a certificate from the university under the signature of the Vice-Chancellor and the Programme Coordinator. The Annual camps are known as Special Camps. Camps are held annually, funded by the government of India, and are usually located in a rural village or a city suburb. Volunteers may be involved in such activities as:
- Stage shows or a procession creating awareness of such issues as social problems, education and cleanliness
- Awareness Rallies
- Inviting doctors for health camps
There are no pre-defined or pre-assigned tasks; it is left up to the volunteers to provide service in any way that is feasible. Camps typically last between a week and 10 days, although camps for shorter periods are also conducted by NSS.
Themes of the programmes
In the past the themes of the Special Camping Programmes have been 'Youth Against Famine', 'Youth Against Dirt and Disease', 'Youth for Rural Reconstruction', 'Youth for Eco-Development', 'Youth for Mass Literacy', 'Youth for National Integration & Social Harmony', 'Youth for Sustainable Development with special focus on Watershed Management and Wasteland Development', ‘Healthy Youth For Healthy India’.
In some institutions and colleges volunteers are involved in regular blood donation and traffic control (regulating queues in temples and preventing stampedes at functions). National conferences are held regularly to conduct white-paper and project presentations and NSS resembles the Bharat Scouts and Guides, National Cadet Corps (NCC) and other programmes developed for national welfare.
To recognize the voluntary service rendered by NSS volunteers, Programme Officers (POs), NSS Units and the University NSS Cells, there are suitable incentives/ awards under the scheme. Awards include:
- Indira Gandhi NSS Award
- State level awards
- University level awards
- District level awards
- College level awards