Princess BBG Amrit Kaur Ahluwalia, a strong advocate for women’s rights, was also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. Overall, briefly discussing the life of Kaur, who holds the image of an agitator and politician, tells you the story of how Kaur built AIIMS.
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Why remember Amrit Kaur?When India became independent, Kaur was made the first woman cabinet minister and held the post of health minister for 10 years. Prior to this, he had experience of working as secretary of Mahatma Gandhi. While holding the post of Health Minister, Kaur established the Indian Council of Child Welfare, laid the foundation of AIIMS and then took the initiative to build Lady Irwin College in Delhi.
Born in Kapurthala’s royal family, Kaur was educated in Oxford and returned to India in 1918 i.e. 3 years after Gandhiji returned to India. She became a follower of Gandhi as soon as she returned to India. In Assal, Kaur’s role was instrumental in mobilizing women in the Gandhi-led independence movement.
A memorable picture of Princess Amrit Kaur.
Along with the freedom movement, Kaur started strongly advocating for women’s rights on issues like child marriage, devadasi system and equality since the 1930s. Aruna Asaf Ali called him a ‘pioneer’. Kaur, who was against reservation for women, lived as a Christian, but according to Sikh tradition, she was cremated in 1964.
Health Minister to build AIIMS
Kaur was not the first choice in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. According to Nehru biographer Shankar Ghosh, Hansa was in favor of Mehta but due to Gandhi’s insistence, Kaur got the post of Health Minister. When the issue of establishment of AIIMS came up after becoming a minister, the matter got stuck on the fund. Then, Kaur raised a large amount from the New Zealand government for this project.
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Not only this, along with international organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation, there was a lot of financial support from the governments of Australia, Germany and Netherlands and made every difficulty easy to establish AIIMS. Kaur’s major contribution was that he also emphasized on making AIIMS an international level institution and preserving it for autonomous status and unique traditions.
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In 1956, Kaur’s thinking was also behind the entrance examination for admission to AIIMS. Kaur’s hard work and dedication paid off when AIIMS was recognized in 1961 as one of the finest institutions in the world along with institutions in the US, Canada and Europe. For AIIMS, Kaur also donated her Shimla home.
Historical picture of Nehru with Gandhiji.
Kaur, who laid the foundation of not only AIIMS and many other institutions, is also remembered for the officials of the Indian Leprosy Association, Child Welfare Council, International Red Cross Society and for the introduction of these institutions in India. Kaur led the Indian contingent in the World Health Organization for four consecutive years and in 1950 she was the President of the WHO Assembly.
Battle against the epidemic and record
In fact, the establishment of AIIMS was itself a step to get rid of many diseases in the country. Kaur, who was at the forefront of many reforms in the health sector, had a big campaign against malaria in 1955 while being a health minister. The New York Times wrote that 4 million lives were saved by this campaign, which could have died of malaria if the campaign was not done.
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Kaur was chosen as the 1947 Woman of the Year by the world’s leading magazine Time. It was only in the past year that Time magazine listed Kaur as one of the 100 most influential women of the 20th century. Kaur will be remembered for inspiring her to fight in favor of the common man of India, leaving a life of luxury.