In the second half of the 19th century, the Pune Sarvajanik Sabha became one of India leading organisation. An annual grant received to Parvati Temple, Pune, from the Government. The trustees of the temple mismanaged that fund/grant. At that time, Ganesh Vasudeo Joshi came forward and organised a meeting about mismanagement. In the discussion, it was recommended to form an association to manage the funds. For this reason, Pune (or Poona, the colonial name) Sarvajanik Sabha was founded on the New Year day (Gudhi Padwa) on 2nd April 1870.
The Sabha adopted the procedure for its organisation. From the beginning, to make the Sabha an elected body to ensure a true representation of the people. Member of the Sabha was required to produce a ‘Mukhtyarnama’ (Power of Attorney) signed by at least 50 adults, which authorised him to speak and act on their behalf about all public matters.
The first President of the Pune Sarvajanik Sabha was the Shrimant Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi, Chief of Aundh, and he held the position for over two decades, i.e. till 1897.
Chairman of Managing Committee:
Rao Bahadur Vizirungum Aya Mudliar was appointed as Chairman of Managing Committee. The committee had 17 members. Its secretary and two other servants carried out the daily work of the Sabha.
The member of Sabha was dominated by the Desh and Poona elite family, like Inamdar, landholders, businessman, savakars or money-lenders, Journalists, etc.
The political awakening at that time in the Deccan area, which caused, G. V. Joshi, K. L. Nutkar, and others with the help of Pant Pratinidhi, the Chief of Aundh state, established the “Poona Sarvajanik Sabha” on April 2, 1870. This was the first indeed representatively political organisation of India. This organisation gave the first impetus to public activities in the Deccan.
The aim of the Sabha was, there should exist between the Government and the People something on the shape of a mediating the body which may be offered the latter facilities for knowing the real intension and objects of the Government as well as adequate means for securing their rights, by making a true representation of the real circumstances in which they are placed for these objects an association has been formed.
Work of the Sabha:
1. Agriculture area:
It came across that Sarvajanik Sabha could not give justice to the problems faced by the farmers. The main work of the people in the Bombay Presidency was agriculture. The 61% of the land of the Bombay Presidency was useful for agriculture, and its totally depends upon the Monsoon.
Due to irregular rainfall, less fertile land, and repressive government revenue policy in the Deccan area, peasants always remained in the precious condition. The Sabha was a representative body devoted to the redress of the grievance of the inhabitants and took the initiative to solve the problems of the Deccan peasants. At the beginning of the sabha attempted to arouse public opinion against the increased revenue assessments introduced by J. Francis in some Deccan districts from 1871 onwards. After the Deccan Riots’ suppression, the Sabha carried out that the harsh revenue policy adopted by the Government was the root cause of the riots. The Sabha collected information about the peasant’s problems and submitted petitions, and requested the government to adopt some such measures to bring about a permanent improvement in the peasant’s condition.
Thereafter various schemes and proposals were put forward by the officials, magistrates, public bodies, and individuals, which ultimately emerged the Deccan Agriculturists Relief Bill of 1879.
Royal Commission Inquiry:
Sabha sent a letter in 1881 to Sir David Wedderburn, M. P. Britain. This letter contained a proposal for consideration of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Deccan conditions.
Land Revenue Code and reform:
As per the Land Revenue Code rule, a farmer at his own improved land and increased production had to pay increased land revenue and did not get entire profits of their labour. To avoid this situation, the Bombay Government declared on March 26, 1884, that they were going to repeal section 107 of the Land Revenue Code. Mr Winter, Acting Collector of Poona, asked Sarvajanik Sabha to communicate its view regarding section 107 of the Land Revenue Code’s repeal.