Saraf- A committed philanthropist
More than five and a half decades ago, young Mahavirprasad Saraf took his first step on an unending journey of philanthropic initiatives that touched every aspect of life in Mumbai city
At 79, age hasn’t diminished his desire to continue with his impressive efforts towards various causes. Saraf has worked in several areas of community welfare as well as for upliftment of the handicapped, women empowerment and child development. He channelises his charitable works through his five Trusts – Ghanshyamdas Saraf Trust, Durgadevi Saraf Trust, Mahavirprasad Saraf Trust, Kirandevi Saraf Trust, Supertex Foundation. Over the years, Mahavirprasad has identified areas for his benevolence.
He has installed 19,110 benches at the city’s public places and still continuing, and built 97 water huts (pyaus) at railway stations across Mumbai. Saraf’s efforts earned him repeated entry in the Limca Book of Records for the highest donation of benches and pyaus by any individual. He also set up Saraf Matru Mandir, a dharamshala for the common man as well as community halls, public toilets (sauchalays), rooms for senior citizens, yoga centre for public, water coolers, rooms for senior citizens in a old age home, borewells, gymnasiums, etc. A chowk at Poddar Park, Malad East has been named as Ghanshyamdas Saraf Chowk by the BMC after Mahavirprasad’s late father, Ghanshyamdas Saraf who was also a noted philanthropist of his time.
In order to promote education, he has set up Ghanshyamdas Saraf College, a degree college, Durgadevi Saraf Junior College, Kirandevi Saraf Institute, Durgadevi Saraf Institute of Management Studies, computer centres, public library, hostel for Adivasi boys and girls, class rooms, study classes, lecture hall, etc. Saraf has also donated computers, stationery, 200 bicycles, wooden benches and desk sets, etc.
In order to help under-privileged women become more self-reliant and earn a living, he has donated sewing machines and started sewing classes. He has sponsored creative workshops for them. In terms of accommodation, he has set-up rooms at a hostel for working women, renovated shelter for orphaned girls. Saraf also distributed necessary clothing and various domesticappliances for their benefit. Mahavirprasad has started Bal Mandir, balwadis, mobile crèches, summer camps, joy bus rides, for small children from poor homes.
To spread health awareness, he has donated 23 ambulances; set up new OPD and maternity ward at Nanavati Hospital, Burns Ward at V N Desai Hospital, eye ward at Shree Rani Sati Eye Hospital. He has also formed medical foundations across the city. Saraf has donated large quantities of medical items, conducted eye camps and distributed free spectacles. To uplift the spirit of independence among the physically disabled and visually impaired, he has donated PCO’s, tricycles, wheel chairs, walkers, Jaipur foots, hearing aids, Braille watches and other items. A foundation and a therapy centre for the handicapped has set up. He organised national level sports meet for paraplegics, integrated summer camp and Prerana 99, a sports event.
Mahavirprasad has renovated office premises of School Sports Centre of MSSA, installed water coolers, showers and benches in the premises, organised cricket for peace tournament, badminton awareness campaign, annual sports events, tournaments, athletic meet, etc. He also donated sports items, instituted trophies, shields and cash prizes, etc. He has also done a lot to promote art, literature and culture. He has renovated premises of Art Society of India, and instituted annual awards on all-India basis to encourage writers and other talented individuals. He has organised poetry competitions, hastakala exhibitions, and also published books and cultural directories. He has received several awards and honours for his social work. One of them is the ‘Fellowship’ from President of India at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He was also chosen as one of “Mumbai’s Heroes” in a public poll by a leading morning tabloid published from Mumbai.