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Durgābāi, Lady Deshmukh  (Telugu: దుర్గాబాయి దేశ్ముఖ్) (July 15, 1909 – May 9, 1981) was an Indian freedom fighter, lawyer, social worker and politician. She was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and the Planning Commission of India.
Born in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India. Durgabai was married at the age of 14 to a Telugu person, latter left and married C.D. Deshmukh, the first Indian Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and Finance Minister in India's Central Cabinet during 1950 - 1956. She was a public activist for women's emanicipation and was also the founder of Andhra Mahila Sabha. She was also the founder chairperson of central social welfare board.
Participation in India's freedom movement
From an early life Durgabai was associated with Indian Politics. When the Indian National Congress had its conference in her hometown of Kakinada in 1923, she was a volunteer and placed in charge of the Khadi Exhibition which was running side by side. Her responsibility was to make sure that visitors to the exhibition were not allowed without tickets. She fulfilled the responsibility given to her honestly and even forbade Jawaharlal Nehru from entering . When the organizers of the exhibition saw what she did and angrily chided her, she replied that she was only following instructions. She allowed Nehru in only after the organizers bought a ticket for him. Nehru then praised the girl for the courage with which she did her duty.
She was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi in India's struggle for freedom from the British Raj, and a prominent social reformer who participated in Gandhi-led Satyagraha activities. This led to British Raj authorities imprisoning her three different times.
She was the President of the Blind Relief Association and in that capacity, she set up a school-hostel and a light engineering workshop for the blind.
Durugabai was a member of India's Lok Sabha. She was instrumental in the enactment of many social welfare laws. She was a member of the Planning Commission (India), and in that role, she mustered support for a national policy on social welfare. The policy resulted in the establishment of a Central Social Welfare Board in 1953. As the Board's first chairperson, she mobilized a large number of voluntary organizations to carry out the Board programs, which were aimed at education, training, and rehabilitation of needy women, children, and the handicapped. She was the first chairperson of the National Council on Women's Education, established by the Government of India in 1958.
- Paul G Hoffman Award
- Nehru Literacy Award
- UNESCO Award (for outstanding work in the field of Literacy)
- Padma Vibhushan award from the Government of India.
Organizations established by Durgabai
- Durgabai Deshmukh: A pioneer and a transformative leader, Prema Kasturi and Prema Srinivasan, The Hindu.
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