G. Durgabai
1909 - 1981

Early Life:

G. Durgabai was born on 15th July 1909, in Rajahmundri, Kakinada. She was involved in the Indian freedom movement from a very young age: when 12, she quit school to protest the imposition of English as the medium of education; when 14 she volunteered at a conference held by the Indian National Congress in Kakinada.

 

Role in India’s independence movement:

In May 1930, she participated in Salt Satyagraha in Madras and was imprisoned in 1930 and 1932. In prison, she studied English and completed her M.A. from the Andhra University. She went on to study law from Madras University and practiced at the Madras Bar for a few years.

In 1936, she established Andhra Mahila Sabha to coach young Telugu girls in Madras for their Matriculation examination conducted by the Banaras Hindu University. Durgabai founded and edited a Telugu journal called Andhra Mahila.

 

Contribution to Constitution Making:

Durgabai was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the Madras Province. She made several key interventions on issues regarding adopting Hindi as national language, protecting independence of judiciary, constitutional guarantees against human trafficking.

 

Later Contributions:

After independence, she was a part of key national organizations like Central Social Welfare Board, and the National Council for Women’s Education. She was also a member of Planning Commission. In 1958, she headed the National Committee on Girls’ and Women’s Education.

 

Awards and Honours:

Durgabai was awarded the Nehru Literary Award in 1971 for her contribution to the promotion of literacy in India. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1975. The Central Social Welfare Board instituted a yearly award in her name to recognize voluntary organisations for outstanding contribution to women's welfare and empowerment.

 

Durgabhai passed away on 9th May 1981.

Durgabai was a member of the following Committees:

  1. Committee on Rules and Procedure
  2. Steering Committee

  1. Durgabai proposed Hindustani (Hindi + Urdu) as the national language of India. But, in the light of anti-Hindi agitation in the South India, she argued against adopting Hindi the national language.
  2. When the Assembly discussed provisions relating to appointment of judges, Durgabai raised key points regarding maintaining independence of the judiciary.
  3. During the debates on Article 23 which deals with human trafficking, she argued against including Devadasi within the ambit of right against exploitation. She noted that the issue will soon perish and didn’t merit Constitutional protection.