Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab, a journalist-author, an able administrator and social reformer, was one of those leading freedom fighters who at the call of Gandhi had joined the Non-Cooperation and Swadeshi Movement in 1920 to liberate the country from the colonial rule, and who associating themselves to social-constructive works had made public-service and nation-building the goal of their life.
Born on November 21, 1899 at Agarpada village in Bhadrak district of Orissa Harekrushna’s father Krushna Charan Das was a progressive farmer who sent him to study in a local school when Harekrushna was just 3 years old. He completed his secondary-level education from the Bhadrak High School and joined Ravenshaw College of Cuttack for higher studies. But soon after giving a break to his study he jumped into the fight for freedom. His activities pertaining to mass-awakening became a challenge for the administration during the period 1921-2; therefore, he was arrested and sent to jail. Although at that time he was 23 years old, but for his public-contacts and participation in the mass movement he got enlisted himself in the rank of prominent freedom fighters and leaders of the region and the nation. He was in the forefront in Civil Disobedience Movement  and Quit India Movement  and, for which he was arrested to long-terms imprisonments.
In 1924, Harekrushna Mahatab created history when at the age of 25 he was elected as the Chairman of Balasore District Board as well as a member of the Bihar-Orissa Council. Further, besides becoming a member of Orissa Legislative Assembly in 1937, 1946, 1967 and 1974 he was also elected to Lok Sabha in 1952 and 1962 where he became the voice of common- man, especially the rural-masses and peasants.
As an outstanding social-constructive worker and servant of the people, Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab participated in the movement against untouchability in 1934 and played an important role in opening doors of Hindu temples for untouchables. With the sole purpose of human-unity and equality he founded the Gandhi Karma Sthala. It was Mahatab who led the people struggling for the merger of princely-states like Sanada in Orissa and the formation of democracies there. He was responsible for the successful completion of the Hirakund Power Project on the river Mahanadi.
Dr. Mahatab was a well-known writer and a true lover of arts. His role in the development of Sahitya and Sangeet Academies of Orissa as their president remained memorable. He composed a series of three volumes under the title, ‘Gan-Majlis’, the third volume of which was selected for the Sahitya Academy Award. In recognition to his noteworthy literary services the Andhra University and the Utkal University honoured him with the Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Literature respectively. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Law by the Sagar University also.
Dr. Mahatab always remained dedicated to the development of democratic values. Just at the age of 23, in 1923, with the purpose of mass-awakening towards democratic process he successfully started a daily named ‘Prajatantra’; edited ‘Jhankar’ monthly since its inception and founded the ‘Prajatantra Sudhar Samiti’ and remained dedicated to this great task until his death on January 2, 1987.
He was a great organizer, party-leader and an able administrator. He held many positions in the Congress organization before and after the freedom of the country. He always remained in direct contact with workers and the masses. The services rendered by Dr. Mahatab as the Chief Minister of Orissa between 1946-50 and 1956-61, the Minister of Commerce and Industries, India between 1950-52, and the Governor of bilingual Bombay State between 1955-6 remained exemplary; they are still the source of inspiration for those who have faith in fair public life and consider public service to be a dharma.
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