Durgabai Deshmukh was born on 15 July 1909 in Kakinada. She belonged to a middle class family. She received B.A. (Hons) and M.A. degrees in Political Science. She also obtained a degree in Law.
At the age of 12, Durgabai Deshmukh was immensely influenced by Gandhiji and joined Indian Freedom Movement. She protested against English-teaching school and participated in the Hindi Rashtra Bhasha Prachar Movement. Durgabai Deshmukh got involved in Indian politics and fearlessly took part in the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1922. She also joined the campaign against foreign goods and started spinning charka. She successfully led the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. In 1930, she was arrested by the British Government for participating in the ‘Salt Satyagraha’, and jailed for 2 years.
Contributions of Durgabai Deshmukh
To spread education among women Durgabai Deshmukh established ‘Balika Hindi Pathshala’ in 1922. In 1933, she established ‘Andhra Mahila Sabha’ in Madras (now Chennai) to eradicate the plight of common women. She became the President of Blind Relief Association and founded a school-cum-hostel and a light engineering workshop for them. As a member of planning commission Durgabai Deshmukh raised her voice for the poor and weaker section of the society. Her efforts to help women in need and her career as a criminal lawyer for those wrongly convicted gave rise to her name and she was inducted into the Constituent Assembly in 1946. There too she fought for women rights. At Steering Committee, she actively participated in assembly debates defending property rights for women under the Hindu Code Bill, independence of the judiciary and selection of Hindustani – a combination of Hindi and Urdu as the national language.
Durgabai Deshmukh brought a number of social laws to provide justice to the poor people. She was the founder chairman of the ‘Central Society Welfare Board’. A number of organizations worked under aegis of the board and gave assistance to the women, children and handicapped. She founded the ‘Council for Social Development’ in New Delhi. She was also one of the leading advocates for the establishment of Family Courts in India, an idea that emerged from her travels as a member of official Indian delegations to countries like China, Russia and Japan.
Achievements of Durgabai Deshmukh
Durgabai Deshmukh received Nehru Literacy Award and UNESCO Award for her lifelong contribution to social welfare and literacy. She was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan by India Government. Durgabai Deshmukh was called ‘Mother of Social Work in India’.