Ever since Independence there has been growing awareness of the desirability of involving students in national service. The First Education Commission (1950) recommended the introduction of national service by students on a voluntary basis. Subsequently on the basis of suggestion made by the then Prime minister Pt. Nehru, a committee was appointed under the Chairmanship of Dr.C.D.Deshmukh to prepare a scheme for compulsory National Service by students prior to their admission for degree courses. Prof.K.G.Saiyidain who undertook a study of national service by youth in several countries, recommended that national service may be introduced on a voluntary basis. A similar recommendation was made by the Education Commission appointed under the Chairmanship of Dr. D.S.Kothari.
In April 1967,the conference of State Education Ministers recommended that at the University stage, student could be permitted to join the National Cadet Corps which was already in existence on a voluntary basis and an alternative to this could be offered to them in the form of a new programme called the National Service Scheme (NSS),Promising sportsmen, however, should be exempted from both and allowed to join another scheme called the National Sports Organisation (NSO), in view of the need to give priority to the development of sports and athletics.
The conference of Vice-Chancellors in September 1967 welcomed this recommendation and suggested that a special committee of Vice-Chancellors should be set up to examine this question in details. The details were soon worked out and the Planning Commission sanctioned an outlay of Rs.5 Crore for developing the NSS during the 4th Five Year Plan as a pilot project in selected institutions and universities. In pursuance of these recommendations, the Ministry of Education introduced the National Service Scheme during 1969-70. The choice of the timing to its introduction was remarkably suspicious as 1969 was the birth centenary year of Mahatma Gandhi, the of Nation to whom social service was almost a religion.
The response of students to the Scheme has been excellent. Starting with a strength of 40,000 in 1969, now it has reached a strength of 20 lakhs in the country.