V. R. Shinde : Thakkar Bapa

(From 'The Indian Social Reformer', April 8, 1944)*

The Late Mr. V. R. Shinde died recently after several years ol continued paralytic attack. During the last fifteen years he was not in active life, being bed-ridden and so out of public gaze.

He was one of my four gurus and, next to my father. I took my lessons of public welfare work at his feet. Though younger in age to me, he was far advanced in the study of national beneficert activities. It is well-known that he was the father of the depressed classes welfare movement on Bombay-side, while he was the first man and a pioneer in such an activity, except in the Punjab and U.P. in recent times. I took my first lessons of practical work from him. After a lapse of 40 years, I have not forgotten the vivid description that he gave me of a Buddhist Bhikshu of Irish origin, and of his inimitable humility and piety, standing at his door, in the Bombay Prarthana Samaj building one early morning. When I was in Bombay Municipal service and in charge of the Kuchra unloading works, in about the year 1906 and 1907, with two or three hundred Mahars and Mangs doing the filthiest work, perhaps most insanitary than carrying night-soil by Bhangis, he gave me lessons in how to conduct schools for their children and to obtain as many privileges as I could for these humble low class workmen of the city of Bombay.

When a technical drafting error that was detected in the Bombay Municipal Act of 1888 prevented the Corporation of Bombay from sanctioning the grant for a school I had started for its employees, he managed to get me the funds through some friendly Corporation member.

Years rolled by, and Sir N. G. Chandavarkar led a group of workers on the path of service to the Harijans, with Shinde as the working Secretary.

Neither the Government of India nor the subordinate Governments of the Provinces of those days were awakened to their sense of duty to the humblest and the suppressed. The Labour Department of Madras which has led the vanguard in this kind of public service and provided an object-lesson to other provincial Governments, was not even then born. Thank God, it has flourished and spends about Rs. 10 to 12 lacs a year, which is not a very creditable percentage, even less than one per cent.


* From The Indian Social Reformer, April 8, 1944.' Thakkar Bapa, Eightieth Birthday Commemoration Volume, Compiled and Edited by T. N. Jagadisan and Shyamlal, Madras, 1949, P. 346-47.


However, other Governments have not come up even to that stage yet, inspite of greatly added resources.

Temperamental differences divided the President and the Secretary of the Depressed Classes Mission after a long period, but Shinde continued to do his missionary task at four different places, Bombay, Poona, Dharwar and Nagpur, mostly in the Marathi area. I very well remember how he coaxed me to speak at a small meeting in a small state of Kathiawar in the year 1908 for the first time in my life. He encouraged me by complimenting me on the Gujarati speech I had then made. In the latter twenties of this century Shinde was out of action. Thereafter came the famous Gandhiji's movement and the whirlwind Harijan tour in 1933 and 1934 for 270 days continuously for the service of Harijans in the whole country and for the removal of untouchability from Hindu society. But that is another story.

He was an ill-paid missionary, but carrying on his mission all the same with unabated enthusiasm. He lived to the end in voluntary poverty with a small family. His widowed sister was also trained in this missionary work and she has survived him. He could ill-educate his sons, one of whom managed to maintain him in his declining years. The younger generation knows very little of Shinde. He was a man of far-sight with a lofty mission to do the long denied justice to 5 crores of our nation, about one-sixth of Indian humanity. In his time there was hardly any group of workers in the country for the social service activities, more so for our neglected and suppressed section. May his life be an inspiration to the new generation of field workers in the social service! May his soul rest in peace and be one with the Almighty who had endowed him with a noble mission and only ‘but one spark' for the regeneration of not an inconsiderable part of our nation!