Amritlal Vithaldas Thakkar (29 November 1869 – 20 January 1951) was an Indian social worker, popularly known as Thakkar Bappa. He founded the Bhil Seva Mandal in 1922. He basically worked for the upliftment of the tribal (forest dwelling) community people in the state of Gujarat. Additionally, he was also a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly.
In remembrance of Thakkar Bappa’s spirit of service, Dr. Rajendra Prasad had said – “Whenever we remember the selfless servants, the statue of Thakkar Bappa will stand in front of our eyes.”
Amritlal Vithaldas Thakkar was born on November 29, 1869. He was born in a middle-class family in Bhavnagar in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, from where he did his matriculation in 1886. His father’s name was Vitthal Das Thakkar.
In 1890 he obtained LCE (Licentiate in Civil Engineering) from Poona Engineering College. L.C.E. (License in Civil Engineering) is equivalent to today’s Bachelor of Civil Engineering.
He started his professional work as an engineer in Porbandar. Thereafter, during the year 1900-1903, he served as an engineer in the Uganda Railway of East Africa. He also served as Chief Engineer in Sangli State for some time and then served in the Bombay Municipality as an engineer.
While working in the Bombay Municipality, he saw for the first time the pitiful condition of the sanitation workers. He was shocked to see the dirty colonies where the sanitation workers had to live. Moved by their situation, he decided to work towards improving their condition.
In 1914, he resigned and started doing social work. He became a member of the Servants of India Society founded by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and advocated for the rights of the untouchables and tribals. He did many relief works for floods and famine. He implemented many schemes to free the sanitation workers from debt.
In 1920 he visited Orissa and carried out famine relief work. In 1922 the Bhils had to face a severe famine. He was deeply moved by the plight of the tribals and founded the Bhil Seva Mandal in 1923 to make efforts for their upliftment. He founded the Gond Sevak Sangh in 1944. Later the name of this organization was changed to Vanvasi Seva Mandal.
Thakkar Bappa also worked among the Harijans and expanded his social service. He was made the secretary of Harijan Sevak Sangh by Gandhiji. In Noakhali, houses of Harijans were burnt by Muslims and Harijans were massacred.
He was also a freedom fighter. For this reason, he was also arrested during the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. After independence he was elected to the Constituent Assembly.
He was the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (other than Assam) of the Constituent Assembly and also served as a member of the Sub-Committee for Assam. Thakkar Bapa died on January 19, 1951.
Interesting Facts about Thakkar Bappa
- Thakkar Bapa wrote the book Tribes of India, published in 1950.
- The Government of India issued a postage stamp in his honor in the year 1969.
- He spent his entire life working for the upliftment of the marginalized people.
- Thakkar Bappa Colony: Bappa Colony, a famous locality in Mumbai, is named after him.
- He coined the term “Adivasi” in the 1930s to refer to the forest dwellers, the tribal people.
- Thakkar Bappa Scheme: The Government of Maharashtra has prescribed a scheme named ‘Thakkar Bappa Adivasi Vasti Sudharna’ in the year 2007 for the improvement of tribal villages and colonies.
- Thakkar Bappa Award: The Madhya Pradesh State Government has instituted an award in his honor for his dedicated services to the poor, oppressed and totally backward tribal community.
- In Tamil Nadu, Thakkar was affectionately known as “Appa Thakkar”, the Tamil version of “Thakkar Bapa”.