The Mission for the Depressed Classes (1906-1912)

(I) Object
From the last Indian Census Report the following figures are extracted.
Total Indians                     294,361,056
Total Hindus                     190,433,969
Total Untouchables            45,699,260

"In every seven Indians therefore including coolies as well as kings, there is one wretched untouchable creature that hardly dares come within speaking distance except to do the meanest service to the rest."
The Depressed population - 3479084
17 per cent of the Hindu population.
Total number of pupils attending schools - 15,058
The total Population                                 9,82000
The total Depressed                                   83,014
The total number of the Depressed pupils        300
The total number of schools                                4

The above figures speak for themselves. They point out to the conclusions so clearly drawn in the accompanying pamphlet "A plea for a Mission for the Depressed Classes" viz.

1. That a vigorous and indigenous effort must be made for the elevation of this large mass of humanity.

2. That the problem of the elevation of these classes calls for a special solution beyond that of their education in the ordinary sense.

3. That a new and indigenous Mission alone is likely to effect a nucleus for this special solution rather than any mechanical agency such as that of the Government or Municipal educational system or even the foreign Christian Missions.

4. That the city of Bombay is the proper place to make a beginning.

It is the object of this Mission to make such a beginning.

(II) Committee

For the present the following gentlemen have constituted themselves into a committee and hold themselves responsible for the property as well as work of the Mission.

Hon'ble Mr. Justice N. G. Chandawarkar - (President)
Shet Damodardas G. Sukhadvala - (Vice President)
Mr. N. B. Pandit - (Treasurer)
Mr. S. R. Lad - (Superintendent)
Mr. V. R. Shinde - (Secretary)
(III)    Institutions
1. Free Day School for both boys and girls, teaching up to the Marathi 5th and the English 3rd standards.

2. Night School for Working People.
3. Charitable Medical Dispensary.
4. Reading Room and Library.
5. Young men's Gymkhana.
6. Mothers Sewing Circle.
7. Prayer and Lecture Hall.

(IV) Mission Operations

(1) All the institutions will be located and conducted in a suitable building carefully selected in a district of the city of Bombay which may be mos inhabited by the Depressed Communities.

(2) The Resident Missionary Teachers will be provided quarters in that building.

(3) They will generally spend three hours in teaching in the day school and one hour in the night school, two hours in visiting the homes of these people by day and one hour by night.

(4) There will be 5 hours of tuition in the day school (10 a.m.—4 p.m.) and two hours in the night school (7—9 p.m.).

(5) The Dispensary will be open every morning in the week except Sunday, the Library every evening and the Reading Room always, in a separate portion of the building.

(6) There will be a simple devotional meeting every Sunday Morning.

(7) The Young men's meeting and the mothers' meeting will be held at suitable times in the week.

(8) On Saturday nights there will be occasionally arranged पोथी, पुराण, कीर्तन or lectures on current topics relating to the advancement of these classes.

(9) There will be annual gatherings of the Mission.

(V)    Estimated Present Expenses

Table (To see the table click here.)

(VI) Intended Future Developments

1. A Model Middle School for Boys.
2. A Model Middle School for Girls.
3. An Industrial School and a Work Shop.
4. A Boarding House with free board for only such of the depressed class boys and girls from the mofussil, as are poor and promising.
5. A system of Scholarship Examinations for the encouragement of pupils of these communities in the important Municipal Schools all over Maharashtra.
Shet Damodardas Govardhandas having made an initial grant of Rs. 1000, a day school and a dispensary have already been started at Parel; but a large sum has yet to be raised. It is therefore the duty of every philanthropically and patriotically disposed person to render all possible help to the Mission so that it may carry on the much needed enterprise. Even a mere man of business in this great industrial and commercial city of Bombay, will realize his own duty as well as interest from an economical point of view of this problem of elevation of the Depressed who constitute no less than nearly one tenth of the whole population, and a considerably larger portion of the labouring population of this city. An intelligent, if not a charitable, glance at the following figures will reveal to him the piteous and pathetic state of circumstances which suffer such large number of human beings to remain age after age in a condition materially so degraded and socially so disabled.
Mahars 40,647;    Mochis 12,622;                Chamars 5,950
Dheds 6,149;       Mangs 2,499;                   Bhangis  4,932
Dhors 818;          Other low castes                            9,307
The total population of the city - 9,82,000
The total number of the Depressed - 83,014
The total number of pupils of the Depressed Classes -  300
Any donation or monthly subscription will be thankfully received by Mr. N. B. Pandit  or Mr. V. R. Shinde, PRARTHANA SAMAJ, GIRGAUM, BOMBAY.

Second Report


The Mission held its gathering in connection with the Holi Holidays on the 28th of Feb. 1907. Its school premises near the Globe Mill at Parel were decorated and a large number of the so-called lowest strata of Hinduism were detached and gathered from the most debasing influences with which the physical and moral atmosphere of the neighbourhood was surcharged. There were present Shet Damodardas, G. Sukhadwala, the vice-president of the Mission, the Hon. Mr. Gokuldas K. Parekh, Mr. K. R. Kama, Miss Kershetji, Miss K. Nawrange, B.A., L.M. & S., Mrs. Ramabai Bhandarkar and several other ladies and gentlemen from the town. At 5 p.m. Mr. V. R. Shinde began his address on the National Holi Festival and its good and bad uses after which Babu Kaniyalal and Swami Swatmanand who was in the chair made some remarks on the subject. About 6 O'clock Sir Bhalchandra Krishn Kt., arrived amid enthusiastic cheers and blowing of the horns from the audience which had gathered by this time 5 to 6 hundred of the depressed communities. About a hundred had come all the way from Chimbur Kacharapatti and an equal number from Byculla and the Market side in processions. No sooner did Sir Bhalchandra take the chair, than the boys of the school emerged out of a room singing in a body the song of the school bell. Mr. Shinde, in presenting the report of the four months' work, said Since nearly 25 years, the Prarthana Samaj has been helping the submerged section of our society by opening night schools for them. Encouraged by the very hopeful signs of self-help among these people recently, some of the members of the Samaj started this much-needed Mission on the Dipavali Day, the 18th of October 1906, when the Hon. Mr. Justice Chandawarkar, president of the Mission, opened the Day School at Parel; there are employed at present two male and two female teachers, one of the latter being honorary, and a peon to gather the pupils.

Pupils registered in the school till the end of Feb. 1907

DAY SCHOOL. Opened, 18 Oct. 1906 -

Table 1 (To see the table click here.)

SUNDAY SCHOOL — Opened, 18 Oct. 1906

NIGHT SCHOOL -OPENED, DEC. 1996 (See the table No. 1)
FREE DISPENSARY—Opened, 12 Nov. 1906 (See the table No. 1)

Every Sunday morning children are gathered in the school for moral and religious training when hymns and moral stories are taught. 25 is the average attendance.

The largest, number of complaints were those of ague and ulcers. Mr. Santooji Ramji Lad, a retired hospital assistant of Thana, has taken honorary charge of the Dispensary, which he comes to attend four hours every morning from Thana. Not only does he earnestly work in the Dispensary but he also visits the houses of the poor without any fee. Since last month Mr. Lad has to go to Chimbur Kacharapatti on the same Mission twice a week, when his place is taken at Parel by another hospital assistant Mr. S. B. Nasikkar. The Mission is deeply indebted to both these gentlemen.


With the kind help of Shet Tukaram Javji, Messrs. Babaji Sakharam and Co. and the Manoranjak Granth Prasaraka Mandal's a small Library was opened in the School with 232 interesting volumes, of which 35 have been issued by the pupils and the people in the neighbourhood since 18th Jan.

is taught to a Mahar youth and to a Mahar cripple orphan who is brought down from Baramati and is lodged, boarded and taught in the school at the cost of the Mission.

On the Mahashiwaratri Day, (11 Feb.) a Harikirtan was performed by Mr. M. Khare which was attended by nearly 300 people.

In order to combat the evil influences of the Holi fortnight the Mission arranged Lantern Lectures on Temperance in the three centres viz., Byculla, Chimbur and Parel where the audiences were from two to four hundred. On three nights the boys of the school and the neighbourhood were engaged in moonlight Swadeshi games under the control of the teachers and some of the young men of the Bombay Prarthana Samaj. About 70 boys who all behaved remarkably well took part in the play.

After the Secretary's report Sir Bhalchandra gave away the prizes to the winners in the games and to the girls, after which he addressed the meeting in terms most complimentary to the Mission dwelling separately on each department of its work and especially on the temperance work. He observed that no amount of good work was of any value unless there was temperance in the people; and that the fact that such a vast crowd was gathered there on that day while thousands were making beasts of themselves in the vicinity was a guarantee that the temperance movement was making progress. He then spoke a few words of advice in Marathi to the humbler section of the audience on which he was garlanded and thanked by Shet Damodardas G. Sukhadwala. The whole audience then descended in the adjoining plain, where Sir Bhalchandra gave the first kick to the football and declared that the

was open, consisting of 25 young men. The party then dispersed amidst loud cheers.


The mission has secured upto now the amount of Rs. 2,102 in all, including the initial donation of Rs. 1000 by Shet Damodardas G. Sukhadwala, three of Rs. 200 each, two of Rs. 100 each and other smaller donations, and monthly subscriptions to the amount of Rs. 20, out of which it has already spent about Rs. 550. In order to do its work effectively, the Mission finds it necessary to extend its operations to Chimbur and Byculla. And since it has already secured the services of some young, devoted and sacrificing missionaries and teachers and a very hopeful field too for their work, the Mission finds itself all the more in a pressing want of a minimum fund of Rs. 3000 a year, for immediate use. It therefore humbly yet earnestly appeals to all wealthy patriots and philanthropists as well as to all friends of the Depressed Classes to generously come forth with their mites howsoever humble and enable the Mission to set the willing labourers to gather an abundant harvest which is only awaiting their hands, but has been all along trampled under feet!

Girgaon, Bombay
1 March 1907


(I) Committee

The Hon'ble Mr. Justice N. G. Chandawarkar - (President)
Shet Oamodardas G. Sukhadvala - (Vice President)
Mr. N. B. Pandit - (Treasurer)
Mr. S. R. Lad - (Superintendent)
Mr. V. R. Shinde - (Secretary)

(II) Object
From the last Indian Census Report the following figures are extracted - Total—Indian population 294,361,056. Total Hindus 190,433,969. Total Untouchables 45,699,260. ‘In every seven Indians therefore including coolies as well as kings, there is one wretched untouchable creature that hardly dares come within speaking distance except to do the meanest service to the rest."

The Depressed population in the Bombay Presidency—3479084; (17 per cent, of the Hindu population). Total number of pupils attending schools, 15,058.

The total population of the city of Bombay 9,92000. The total Depressed 33,014. The total number of the Depressed pupils in the four Municipal Schools is 300. The above figures point out to the conclusions (a) That the problem of the elevation of these classes calls for a special solution beyond that of their education in the ordinary sense, (b) That a new and indigenous Mission alone is likely to effect a nucleus for the special solution rather than any mechanical agency such as that of the Government or Municipal educational system or even the foreign Christian Missions, (c) That the city of Bombay is the proper place to make a beginning.

It is the object of this Mission to make such a beginning.

(III) Work

1. SEWA SADAN - Mr. Sayyad Abdul Kadir of the Bombay Prarthana Samaj has given up his situation and has wholly devoted himself to the work of the Mission. Besides, two lady-workers and an old and experienced gentleman of the Samaj have also volunteered their services : all these four now form the institution named "The Nirashrit Sewa Sadan" which is at present lodged in the top-floor of the building which contains the Mission Schools near the Globe Mill at Parel. A generous philanthropist has undertaken to pay one hundred rupees every month towards the expenses of this institution.

2. THE SCHOOLS - There are now 105 boys and 22 girls in the Day School, 52 working people in the Night School and 40 pupils in the Sunday School. There is a separate night class for grown-up girls. A sewing class for women is newly organised. Besides the voluntary workers there are four paid teachers and a peon.

3. THE BOOK-BINDER'S SHOP - Five boys are regularly taught book­binding by a teacher specially engaged who besides teaching, does work in aid of the Mission under the direct instructions of Mr. Sayyad who knows book-binding.

4. THE MAIDAN CLUB - The meadow adjoining the school being constantly flooded during the rains, the young men have rare occasions for out-door games. So they have naturally developed their club into a debating society which arranges fortnightly lectures. The last such meeting was attended by about ninety people from the neighbourhood. It is also the purpose of the club to organise occasional trips and outings which will no doubt afford a healthy change to these hard worked souls.

5. THE FREE DISPENSARY - Mr. S. R. Lad goes from Thana every morning to attend to the Dispensary and Mr. Nassikakar too pays his bi-weekly visits, free of charge. Till the end of June last, the total admissions were 302.

6. A BOARDER - It is to be regretted that the cripple Mahar boy from Baramati who was learning book-binding and was maintained by the Mission, fell a victim to the plague during the last visitation. There is now another promising Mahar youth named Ganesh Akaji Gawai from Akola, boarded and lodged freely in the Sewa Sadan. He is reading for the ensuing Matriculation examination, and is kindly admitted as a half free student at the Wilson High School by the Principal.

7. RELIGIOUS WORK - Every day there is Bhajan early in the morning and at night and once a week there is divine service in the Sewa Sadan- There are fortnightly Saturday devotional meetings alternating with the lectures of the club, in which Kirtans are performed or readings given from such popular works of Marathi saints as Bhakti Vijai.

8. SPECIAL WORK - The missionaries noticing a pitiful want of cleanliness among the pupils, have instituted a system of Saturday and Sunday baths on which occasions the free use of soap and towels is enjoyed by the children almost as a luxury. They also collect old clothes from well-to-do people and distribute them among the needy.


9. THE SOMAWANSHIYA SANMITRA SAMAJ - With a view to promote efforts of self-improvement and self-help among the people themselves, this association was started in March last as a centre of work in Byculla. Fourteen men have enlisted themselves as regular members. They hold weekly gatherings of the neighbouring people on every Saturday night in a rented room in the Dagadi Chal at Madanpura. The members, after the preliminary Bhajan, address the meeting by turns on some useful subject. Representatives of the Mission occasionally visit the association, give discourses and make suggestions; but care is taken to keep the organization as independent and self-supporting as possible.

10. There is a Municipal colony of more than 500 lowcaste people at Deonar, (Chimbur Kacharapatti) by whom the need for a day and a night school is being badly felt for a long time. Efforts are being made to secure a school house from the Municipal Corporation and then to open a regular centre there. On special occasions, people are gathered from all these centres at the Parel School.

11. WORK IN THE MOFFUSSIL - The Secretary in a recent missionary tour in Central India and Berar, delivered public lectures on the problem of the depressed classes and on the aims and work of the Mission, in Baroda, Indore, Dhar, Akola, Amraoti and Manmad. In Indore a separate committee of the Mission was organised which is now maintaining a day school for the lowcaste boys of that city. A similar night school was started in Manmad. At Akola the Secretary visited and inspected the Janoji Lowcaste Free Boarding. The late Mr. Janoji was a well-to-do Mahar contractor and took great pains for the education of his caste-fellows. His widow who is now conducting the Boarding single-handed and naturally with great difficulty, made a written application to the secretary for help. The Mission has therefore sent its agent to help her in managing the institution and to make it a centre for Berar. A little Mahar girl in the lowcaste school at Pandharpur is given a small monthly scholarship as an encouragement in her pursuit.

(IV) Accounts
(From 18th October 1906 to 9th July 1907)

Donations Rs. 2248-4-0. Subscriptions Rs. 704-0-0. Other income 22-5-0. Total received Rs. 2974-9-0.

Sewa Sadan
Table 2  (To see the table click here.)

(V)    Appeal

The estimated annual expenditure is three thousand rupees (Rs. 3000) of which only half is secured by annual subscriptions and the other hall is yet to be secured. The reserved fund too, of which only a small beginning is made has to be largely increased by substantial donations. Besides subscriptions and donations, friends are requested to help the Mission by sending their old clothes, books, furniture, medicines, toys and other articles of household utility, by visiting and inspecting the Mission work personally and by getting their friends interested in the work. As the Mission has already secured the devoted services of a batch of enthusiastic and self-forgetting persons, it is highly desirable that an efficient settlement should be established in a spacious plot of ground in Byculla which is not only the centre of the island but also the most populated district by Mahars, Chambhars and other depressed communities. It is therefore earnestly appealed that all wealthy patriots, philanthropists as well as all other friends of the depressed classes in India should come forth to the help of the Mission in this most needed and noble enterprise.

GIRGAUM, BOMBAY           Secretary.
9th July 1907                    Depressed Classes Mission

We must leave the report to speak for itself. But we think it necessary to call attention to the poor support that has so far been accorded to the Mission by the wealthier classes of our citizens. The Mission is directly intended to raise the condition of the labouring classes, and we are sure that if it is brought to the notice of large employers of labour, who are deeply interested in every improvement which concerns labourers, the financial position of the Mission will be made much stronger than it is, in a very short time.
- Indian Social Reformer