Veteran socialist leader Mrinal Gore, who earned the sobriquet 'Paniwali Bai' for her efforts in bringing drinking water supply to Goregaon, a Mumbai suburb, passed away on Tuesday after a brief illness.
Family sources said eighty four-year-old Gore, a former MP, died at a hospital at Vasai in neighbouring Thane district.
A pioneer and visionary, Gore was one of the last of the Socialist pillars in Maharashtra.
Mrinaltai, as she is respectfully referred , Gore was elected to Parliament on a Janata Party ticket in 1977.
Gore belonged to that special set of women who took to politics in a period when it was virtually unthinkable for women to be involved in public work.
Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's Quit India exhortation as a youngster, Mrinal chucked a promising career in medicine to devote herself to organizing the poor and the disenfranchised.
For more than half a century, she has been involved with a series of organizations and leading protests both on the streets and in the corridors of power, focusing on women's rights, civil rights, communal harmony, and trade union activities.
Over a decade ago, in a protest against price rise, Gore led a rally of hundreds of women brandishing rolling pins from Churchgate to Azad Maidan in South Mumbai. The first time she held a similar protest on the issue was in 1972.
Gore and other colleagues of her husband Keshav set up the Keshav Gore Smarak Trust which supports community-centered activities and social awareness campaigns and actions after he died in 1958.
In 1961, Gore contested the civic elections and won a seat in the Bombay Municipal Council. Fighting a hard battle, she eventually brought regular and adequate drinking water supply to the area. For this she earned the sobriquet "Paniwali Bai".
After she quit her course in medicine, Gore began a career in politics in 1947 when she joined the Rashtriya Seva Dal. She joined Congress but left a year later and was part of the Socialist Party.
She and her husband, Keshav Gore, also a socialist, worked on building better civic infrastructure for the masses. The couple participated in the Goa liberation movement and the Samyukta Maharashtra movement and were jailed for leading protests and satyagrahas.
In 1972, Gore contested the Maharashtra Assembly elections on the Socialist Party ticket and won with the highest margin in the state. As an MLA, she took up issues such as atrocities on marginal farmers, Dalits, tribal people and women and was regarded as a real firebrand.
After the prices of essential commodities began skyrocketing, Gore was at the forefront in setting up in September 1972 the Anti-Price Rise Committee, which mobilized the largest-ever turnout of women since the Independence movement.
She also led protests against the entry of US giant Enron in the power sector and supported people displaced by the Narmada Dam.
After the Emergency, in 1977, Gore was elected to Parliament on Janata Party ticket. In 1985, she became an MLA again and took up the issue of banning sex determination tests.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan has expressed grief over the demise of the veteran leader. In a condolence message, he said: "Mrinal Gore was one of the greatest woman social workers who until her death fought for the rights of the poor and the under privileged sections of the society.
"Along with late Ahilya Rangnekar and others, she remained in the forefront of various agitations for almost four decades and secured justice for women and the urban poor. All her life, Gore practiced the values of Gandhianism to the core. In her demise, Maharashtra has lost a great social worker and the champion of womens' rights," he said. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar also condoled Gore's death.
"Gore was a veteran socialist leader whose contribution to nation building will be remembered always," Mr Chavan said.
The work done by Gore to bring succour to the under privileged sections of society was exemplary, Pawar said.