Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has recommended to the Centre to confer the Bharat Ratna on the renowned 19th century social reformers, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced here on Tuesday.
He made the announcement while addressing a conference of Rashtriya OBC (Other Backward Castes) Mahasangh in Mumbai for conferring the country's highest civilian award on the Phule couple posthumously, over a century after they passed away.
Incidentally, Fadnavis had made a similar announcement in the state legislature two years ago, requesting the Centre to confer the honour to mark Mahatma Phule's 125th death anniversary.
Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, later revered as Mahatma Phule, was born on April 11, 1827 and his wife Savitribai K. Patil was born on January 3, 1831, both in different villages in Satara district.
When Jyotirao was 13, he was married to the nine-year-old Savitribai, hailing from an aristocratic farming family.
Born in a lower caste, Mahatma Phule was a thinker, social reformer, anti-caste activist and writer while his wife followed in his footsteps besides being an educationist and a poetess. She also worked against the practice of dowry.
The couple fought against the caste system, untouchability, and for reforms in Hindu family life and later founded the Satyashodhak Samaj in 1873 to seek equal rights for people from lower castes.
They are credited with launching the first school for girls in Bhidewada, Pune in 1848, with Savitribai as its first teacher. The duo taught girls irrespective of caste, creed or economic background.
The first school started with just nine girls/women as students and later expanded by opening 18 such schools in the state, marking a historic milestone in the area of female education which was considered taboo in the then prevalent orthodox Indian society.