From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Amrit Kaur
Mains level : Not Much
Former PM Indira Gandhi and freedom fighter Rajkumari Amrit Kaur are mentioned in TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful women who defined the last century in a new project that aims to feature those women who were “often overshadowed”.
Who was Amrit Kaur?
- Amrit Kaur was the first woman in independent India who joined the Cabinet as the Health Minister and remained in that position for 10 years.
- Born into the Kapurthala royal family, she was educated in Oxford and returned to India in 1918, and began to be drawn towards the work and teachings of MK Gandhi.
- Before taking up the position of a Health Minister, Kaur was Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary.
- During these 10 years, she founded the Indian Council for Child Welfare.
- She also laid the foundation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Lady Irwin College in Delhi in the following years.
- Apart from joining the nationalist freedom struggle, Kaur also began work on a number of other social and political issues such as the purdah system, child marriage and the Devadasi system.
- She passed away in 1964, at the age of 75.
Role in the freedom struggle
- In 1936, hoping that more women would join the freedom struggle, Gandhiji invited her.
- In the following years, as Kaur started interacting with other freedom fighters such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi, she gave up her princely comforts and began to discipline herself by responding to the Gandhian call.
- When the civil disobedience movement took off in the 1930s, Kaur dedicated her life to it.
- Kaur was jailed after the Quit India movement and carried to the jail a spinning wheel, the Bhagwat Gita and the Bible.
- Further, while Kaur advocated for equality, she was not in favour of reservations for women and believed that universal adult franchise would open the doors for women to enter into the legislative and administrative institutions of the country.
- In light of this, she believed that there was no place left for reservation of seats.