Dattatreya Balkrushna Kalelkar ((1 December 1885– 21 August1981), popularly known as Kaka Kalelkar, was an Indian independence activist, social reformer and journalist. He was a major follower of the philosophy and methods of Mahatma Gandhi.
Kalelkar was born in Belgundi Village, Taluka and District Belgaum, Karnataka near Sawantwadi in Maharashtra. He had his college education at Fergusson College in Pune.
After his college education, he worked for a while on the editorial staff of a nationalistic Marathi daily named Rashtramat, and then as a teacher at a school named Gangadhar Vidyalay in Baroda. Within a few years, the ruling British government forcibly closed down the school because of its nationalistic spirit.
After a few years, Kalelkar became a member of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. For some time, he served as the editor of Sarwodaya periodical which was run from the premises of the Ashram. With Gandhi’s encouragement, he played an active role in establishing Gujarat Vidyapith at Ahmedabad, and served as its vice-chancellor for some years. Gujaratis lovingly called him meaning 1.25 gujrati
Kalelkar also worked very actively in the Hindustani Prachar Sabha institution whose object was to popularize Hindi/Hindustani language as the national language of India, which would then serve to bind Indians closer.
For various nationalistic causes such as popularizing Hindi/Hindustani as the national language, Kalelkar traveled extensively throughout India, covering thousands of miles, notably mostly on foot. He then went on writing remarkable, voluminous travelogues in Gujarati, Marathi, and Hindi.
Kalelkar was a member of Indian Rajya Sabha for twelve years after India’s independence.
Backwards Classes Commission
In 1953, six years after India got its independence from the British Raj, the central government established a Backwards Classes Commission under Kalelkar’s chairmanship with the charter to recommend reforms for removing inequities for underprivileged people. The Commission issued its report in 1955, recommending, among other things, that the government grant special privileges to untouchables and other underprivileged people.
While forwarding the above report to the central government, Kalelkar attached a letter, recording his strong disagreement with the Commission’s fundamental conclusions. He wrote that the suggested remedies were worse than the evils they sought to combat. He wrote that the whole line of investigation pursued by the Commission was “repugnant to the spirit of democracy since in democracy it is the individual, not the family or the caste, which is the unit.” He recommended that the state regard as backward and entitled to special educational and economic aid all persons whose total annual family income was less than 800 rupees [at that time] regardless of their caste or community. He stated his disagreement with the Commission’s recommendation of reserving posts in government services for the backward classes.