Amritlal Vithaldas Thakkar, fondly known as Thakkar Bapa, was born on 29 November 1869 in Basani area of Bhavanagar (Saurashtra), Gujarat. Thakkar completed his primary education at Bhavnagar and Dholera. He joined the Anglo-Vernacular School and then the Alfred High School at Bhavnagar. He was awarded the Jashvantsinhji Scholarship. Thakkar joined the Engineering College, Poona (1887), and completed his L.C.E. (Licentiate of Civil Engineering) in 1890.
Thakkar served in various capacities as an engineer in the State of Kathaiwad from 1890 to 1900. In 1900 he went to East Africa to serve the Uganda Railway for three years. After his return from East Africa, he joined worked as a Chief Engineer in various states. He started a school for the children of the Kurla sweepers with the help of Ramaji Shinde of the Depressed Classes Mission and implemented a scheme for making sweepers debt-free.
He joined the Servants of India Society in 1914 and soon after he carried out famine relief work various places. During this period Thakkar was introduced to Gandhiji by Gokhale in Bombay. In 1915-16, he organised co-operative societies for sweepers in Bombay, opened a school for the children of the labourers in Ahmedabad and organised famine-relief work in Kutch. In 1918, Bapa had an important role to play in the presentation of the bill on compulsory primary education in the Bombay legislative council.
At Gandhiji’s request, Thakkar accepted the General Secretaryship of the Harijan Sevak Sangh which was established in 1932. From 1934 to 1937 he worked for the cause of Harijans and from 1938 to 1942 he worked on various committees appointed by the Governments of Central Provinces and Berar, Orissa, Bihar, Bombay, etc., for the welfare for the aboriginal tribes and backward classes.
In 1944, he organised the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Fund and was appointed as the Secretary of the Fund and subsequently of the Trust. In the same year, he founded the Gond Sevak Sangh, now called ‘Vanavasi Seva Mandal’, in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh.
Role in India’s Independence Movement:
He was arrested in Mehmedabad (now known as Mahemdavad), a town near Ahmedabad while supervising the volunteers who participated in the picketing of liquor shops. He also played a singular role in the negotiations which led to the Poona Pact during Gandhiji’s fast unto death in 1932.
Contribution to Constitution Making:
After Independence, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly. He made various interventions related to minority rights including suggestions on the prohibition on the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs, funding and inclusion of backward castes amongst Hindus and Muslims.
He was appointed Vice-President of the Adimjati Mandal, Ranchi, with Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its President in 1946. From October 1946 to March 1947, he was at Noakhali and other districts of East Bengal with Gandhiji among the victims of communal riots. He acted as Chairman of the Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (other than Assam) Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly and a member of the Sub-Committee for Assam (1947). He was also a trustee and a member of the Executive Committee, Gandhi National Memorial Fund. On 29 November 1949, on completion of his 80th year, he was presented with a Commemoration Volume at a public meeting held in Delhi, over which Sardar Patel presided.
He authored the book ‘Tribes of India’ that was published in 1950.
He died on 19 January 1951 aged 81.
- Chairman, Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (other than Assam) Sub- Committee
- Member, North East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Sub- Committee
- He proposed that the State of Madhya Bharat should be added to Article 164.
- Thakkar suggested that the same extension should be applied to Article 300 as it applies to Article 301 which talks about giving benefits to all backward persons.
- He argued that if the last census which was adopted, the minorities would not get half of their due representation.
- In the debate surrounding Directive Principles of State Policy, Thakkar intervened and provided perspectives of adivasis on the prohibition on the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health.
- He proposed to move an amendment that asks for the inclusion of the backward castes among Hindus as well as Muslims.
- According to Thakkar, the best way to serve the economically poor provinces would be by providing them enough funds from the Centre.
“Thakkar Bapa” is a biography written by Viyogi Hari