The well, that symbolizes Mahatma Gandhi’s work to eradicate untouchability, still exists in the Bara Signals area of Nagpur. While fighting for India’s independence from the clutches of British slavery through non-violence, Gandhi also worked to eradicate untouchability. The symbol of his work in Nagpur is in the form of a well in Borkar Nagar, behind the Timber Market on the Great Nag Road.
More than a century ago, around in 1915-16, the houses of cleaning & Sanitation workers at the foot of Sitabuldi hill were demolished. So these residents were forced to live in the Sangam Chaal area in Sitabuldi.
But, within a few days, they were again removed from that area. However, after being removed from there, they moved across the Nag River to live on the other side of the Nag River near the Loha Pul Area which is near the present Dhantoli police station. This area surrounded by bushes was known as Bara Signal. The railway had passed through this area and there were twelve railway signals. From this, the area got the name of 3Bara Signal. This became a permanent shelter for cleanliness workers.
During that era, untouchability was very much observed in the society due to which these workers had no access to clean drinking water. In this period, when Mahatma Gandhi used to come in Nagpur, he used to stay at Dhantoli Tikekar Wadi. Tikekar was a major railway contractor at the time. In 1933, when Mahatma Gandhi visited Nagpur, Prasad Pathak, a Congress activist from the city, told him about the problem of drinking water in the sanitation workers colony in Bara Signal area.
As soon as he was informed about the situation of sanitation workers Mahatma Gandhi himself went to that colony. He instructed the then Nagpur Municipal Council to build a well at that place. Ansuyabai Kale, a prominent social activist from Nagpur was present with Mahatma Gandhi at that time. She immediately removed her gold bracelets from her hands and donated it for the construction of the well.
With her donation, the well was constructed in Bara Signal areas with the joint cooperation of Ansuyabai Kale and Nagar Parishad Nagpur. The well was constructed by a Bajrang contractor from Sirsapeth.
After the completion of this well, on November 8, 1933, it was inaugurated by Gandhiji. Poonamchand Ranka, Bhavanishankar Niyogi, Samiullah Khan, Government Shri Pradhan was present at the inauguration ceremony at the dignitaries of the city.
The water of this well dedicated by Gandhiji was used until 1970 when the tap water supply was made accessible and consumption well water was reduced to zero. The well was beautified during the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government when Manohar Joshi was the Chief Minister. The then MLA Bhola Badhel had taken the initiative for beautification. At a cost of Rs. 5 lakhs from the Chief Minister’s fund, beautification was done by installing granite, flowers and mercury lights all around. Later famous leaders of the country such as Jagjivan Ram, Pattabhisitaramayya, Deendayal Gupta, Pandit Veteran Ravi Shankar Shukla has visited this well. Well known actor and then Union Minister Sunil Dutt also visited the well and addressed the citizens of the area.
Many Nagpurians today are unaware of this symbol against injustice but, it is indeed a historical place of this city that should be remembered.