Chhaganlal Karamshi Parekh popularly known as Chhagan Bapa (27 June 1894 – 14 December 1968) was an Indian philanthropist and social worker who worked for education, the end of poverty, and social reform of women.
In year 1912 at age of 18, he came to Jharia with help of Damodar Kunwarji Trivedi. He started his career as a clerk at R. A. Mucadam & Sons' Chanda colliery in Jharia owned by Parsi gentleman, Rustomji Ardesar Mukadam in same year. After a year he switched to Khas Kusunda colliery owned by Mistri Pancha Devji At salary of Rs.30/- per month, which was later raised to Rs.40/- per month. This colliery was managed by Mistri Kanji Khengar, who trained him well into job. Later in 1914 he joined Lower & Upper Jharia Collieries located at Tisra, which were owned by Mistri owners Gangji Dossa Jethwa & Khimji Dossa Jethwa of Nagalpar. The owners were very much impressed with his work and promoted him. From here he progressed to start his own coal supply firm.
He was among the committee members of historic All India Trade Union Congress meeting hosted at Jharia in year 1928 and shared dais with other notable colliery owners like, Ramjush Agarwalla, the host and others like, D. D. Thacker, Karamshi Khora and other dignitaries.
But in the year 1949, there was change in his life. He took retirement from his work and dedicated his life towards social service. He got inspiration for social work from Thakkar Bapa and became a member of Servants of India Society and served in earthquake relief works in Assam and earthquake relief works in Kutch and tribal upliftment in Himachal Pradesh
After, leaving Jharia in 1949, he spent almost a decade in Calcutta where he already had a house and offices for coal supply business. Here, he helped founding Laxminarayan Temple & Dharamshala and Laxminarayan Trust Hospital at Bhowanipore, both the establishments were funded by Gujarati diaspora of Calcutta, which included a handsome donation by him and Kutchi miners, with whom he had started his career. He also helped start couple of schools in Calcutta.
During the earthquake of 1956 in Kutch, he worked relentlessly for the relief work, collecting funds and doing other humanitarian services. In course of his works he was also responsible for laying foundation of Anjar General Hospital and the first only girls school of Anjar known as K.K.M.S. Girls High School for which he was able to generate a munificent donation from Khatau family and Smt. Maniben Khatau Sethia of Calcutta.
At Bombay, he was inspiration behind starting of Lijjat Papad in 1959, which is a noted women's cooperative based at Mumbai. He was also one of the founding member of Gujarati Dharamshala at Haridwar. Manaji Jeram Rathod of Madhapar was a close friend and associate since Jharia days and one of the founders of Gujarati Dharamshala, who worked with Chhagan bhai in raising funds for the project
He died on 14 December 1968, at Bombay, survived by his 2 sons -Ratilal and Mulchand, and their families.
Honors and memorials
The Government of India issued a postage stamp in his honor in 1999. Shri Laxminarayan Temple at Kolkata, have named the Hall in name of Chhagan Bapa as a memorial to him. From 1980, Lijjat started giving Chhaganbapa Smruti Scholarships to the daughters of the member-sisters in his memory.
- Rāmanārāyaṇa Nāgaradāsa Pāṭhaka (1980). Punyashlok Chhaganbapa: godfather of Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad. Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad.
- Natwarlal Devram Jethwa (1998) Diary of Golden Days at Jharia – A Memoir & History of Gurjar Kashtriya Samaj of Kutch in Coalfields of Jharia. Raja Pawan Jethwa (ed.). Calcutta.
- B. L. Mehta (1991). Trade union movement in India. Kanishka Publishing House. p. 78. ISBN 978-81-85475-05-9.
- Congress, All-India Trade Union (1973). AITUC--fifty years: documents, Volume 1. p. 108.
- Himmat, Volume 16, 1980
- "Welcome to Shree Haridwar Gujarati Dharamshala Trust". gujaratidharamshalaharidwar.com.
- NEW DELHI: A set of four postal stamps was released here on Saturday as a part of "India's march towards progress and development" to pay tributes to four visionaries of modern India.. Gujarati philanthropist Chhaganlal Parekh, better known as Chhaganbapa. Angelfire.com. Retrieved on 27 November 2018.
- Anuradha Sud. Transitions – History and Civics – 6. p. 180. ISBN 9789325993945.