India’s oldest scouting group turns 100 on November 8

One of the oldest continuously run scout groups in the city will complete 100 years on November 8. Sethna’s 18th West Bombay, whose members are mostly Zoroastrians, was founded in 1914.

Started by Rustomji Edulji Sethna, the group was initially open for membership only to Parsi boys. Post independence however, Sethna truly embraced the underlying ideals of Scout Law and allowed boys of other faiths to enrol.

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Presently, the troop has 28 cubs (6-10 years) 18 Scouts (11-17 years) 18 Sea Scouts (11-17 years) 40 Rovers (18-35 years) 16 Scouters (Adult Leaders) and over 250 Old Scouts.

As part of the requirements for the highest award in scouting, (Rashtrapati Scout Award), Scouts are involved in social service at Parsi General Hospital. Membership ratio is 50% Zoroastrian to those from other communities.

Shedding light on the initial Parsi-only membership, second generation scout Arzan Sam Wadia said, “In 1914, only troops for British boys were allowed to be registered. He wrote to Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the

Worldwide Scout Movement, after which an official decree stated that Indian troops were allowed to be registered alongside British ones.”

Each year, the Scouts have two camps. During the Summer Training camp, scouts live in tents and cook their own meals using firewood. Spread over three days, the excursion has scouts learning survival skills, among others.

The Annual Camp happens each December during the Christmas holidays. During this seven-day-long camp, the scouts visit nearby towns and hill stations. There, they compete amongst themselves in various events and games.

In addition to the two camps, the troop has an annual holiday tour, with past destinations like Kashmir, Bangalore, Mysore and Ooty. To commemorate their centenary, the members are off to Hyderabad this year.

Apart from the intra-group activities, scouts participate in sports events at the district, state, national and international levels too. The Scouts have led Indian contingents to the World Jamborees and the Rovers are a regular part of the International Service Team at national and global events.

Several prominent persons are members of Sethna’s. The current chairman of the managing committee, Noshir M. Mistry, is the ex-chairman of the Central Bank of India.

Group Leader Lavji Mistry, was the head of Mobil Shipping in India and is currently heading BW Shipping Lines.

About the lessons learned, Rover Kaykhusru Lawyer, 28, a mechanical engineer, said “Since parents are not allowed in the camps, the members develop a sense of responsibility, which in turn shape their personalities. Things like learning to give first aid, mapping and preparing food over fire are all essential for them in today’s technology-driven world.”