Bhubaneswar: The man whom Mahatma Gandhi described as a great patriot, who has exhausted himself in giving form and reality to various nation-building projects, is none other than an Odia, known as Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das. He was born on April 28, 1848 in a village called Satyabhamapur, 50 kilometers from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha. versatile person who is also a legislator, poet, freedom fighter and defender.
People affectionately called him ‘Madhu Babu’. He was a down to earth person, despite many firsts including the first graduate and supporter of Odisha, the first Odia to serve as a member of both the Legislative Council and the Central Legislative Assembly of former Bengal- Bihar-Orissa, first Odia to sail abroad for education etc. Madhu Babu founded Utkal Sammilani, which revolutionized the social and industrial development of Odisha.
His long political struggle united Odias, leading to the formation of Odisha (previously spelled Orissa), India’s first language-based state, on April 1, 1936. He founded the Utkal Tannery in 1905, a factory producing footwear and other leather products. In 1897 he founded the Orissa Art Ware Works. He supported the Tarakasi (watermark) silver ornament work in Cuttack. He spent all his wealth on the country and declared himself insolvent. Yet, very little or no recognition has been given to Madhu Babu for his contribution to municipal government in India and it is fitting to remember his contribution on his birthday.
Madhusudan Das became a minister on 6 January 1921 with public health, local government, the portfolio of building a two-member cabinet in the new government of Bihar Orissa. Madhu Babu resigned on March 9, 1923. As Minister of Local Self-Government, he introduced three important bills – “Bihar Orissa Municipal Bill”, “Bihar Orissa Local Self-Government Bill Bihar and Orissa” and “The Bihar and Orissa Village Administration Bill. ‘.
Bihar Orissa Municipal Bill was presented to Patna Provincial Council on November 28, 1921 in the third session. Beginning August 1, 1922, the bill was discussed in detail after being sent by the House Select Committee. It was finally approved on August 23, 1922 and entered into force on January 1, 1923.
On January 30, 1923, Madhu Babu delivered a speech before the Legislative Council of Bihar Orissa on local self-government. “People are eager to have ‘Swaraj’ and the emperors have promised it. “Swa” means “Self”. Whatever ultimate authority people are answerable to is part of that particular system of administration in which the “Self” is a prominent and important factor. I don’t believe that people in India have a caste mentality, they are not insensitive to the benefits they derive from a system of popular administration”.
The old Bengal Municipal Act III (BC) of 1884, which had been in force for 38 years, was replaced because it did not meet the needs of the times by the Bihar Orissa Municipal Act VII 1922, which was in line with the modern ideas. The Act made several substantial changes to the constitution, power and nature of municipal bodies in the province of Bihar and Orissa. The act increased the number of commissioners from 30 under the Municipal Act of Bengal III (BC) of 1884 to 40 and increased the proportion of commissioners elected from two thirds to four fifths of the total number and one fifth would be appointed by the government, the law therefore offered the opportunity to obtain a broader participation of the population.
Under the Bengal Municipalities Act III (BC) of 1884, those who had paid 3 rupees as municipal tax would not be entitled to vote. This was reduced to Rs 1.80 under the Bihar Orissa Municipal Act VII 1922 by allowing more people to participate. One of the extraordinary features introduced in Bihar Orissa Municipality Act VII of 1922 was the abolition of disqualification based on gender. As in the Bengal Act of 1884, only men with the required qualifications were allowed to vote. Women were barred from voting even if they had the desired qualifications. However, Madhu Babu, in Municipal Law VII of Bihar Orissa of 1922 allowed women who paid 1.80 rupees tax or passed matriculation or certain other examinations to vote and stand for all public office at elections.
The proportion of appointed members has been drastically reduced and official control over the budget and other matters too reduced. The government, however, retained the power to standardize the rules in some cases, but the commissioners enjoyed extensive powers to make regulations and so adapt the law to changing local conditions.
The Commissioner held office for a period of three years from the date of the general election. Even Bihar Orissa Municipal Act VII of 1922 ensured that all municipal bodies in the province had the right to elect the president, as the government officer could no longer hold the office or vote for the president.
Municipal bodies in Odisha have been celebrating August 31 as Local Self-Government Day for a long time without quite knowing why they observe this day and what is its relevance for Odisha and local self-government. Although the reason is unfounded when ‘Son of the Soil’ Madhu Babu’s contribution to local government is considered, from being the prime minister to introduce several bills relating to local government and his vision to enable women to vote as well as competitive elections to the structure of municipal bodies and the election of the president. He was a true visionary whose contribution to municipal government in local self-government has yet to be recognized in both Odisha and India.
Therefore, the celebration of Local Self-Government Day on August 31 should be changed to the celebration of Municipal Government Day on Madhu Babu’s birthday, April 28, and a request should be made to the government. Indian as well as to the Odisha government and municipal bodies to observe the day.
Likewise, his birthplace is set to be declared a national monument and local government research center in honor of Madhu Babu on his 175th birthday in a year.