He was born on October 15, 1926. Orphaned or abandoned soon after birth, he grew up in the streets of Mumbai, sleeping on the pavement and earning a meager livelihood by doing odd jobs. He taught himself to read and write, and in 1966 published his first book of poems Majhe Widyapith (माझे विद्यापीठ ; My University).
Surve actively worked in the workers' union movement in Mumbai and supported himself as a schoolteacher.
Surve received for his poetry Golden Lotus Award, and Kabir Sammanin 1999 from the state government of Madhya Pradesh. He was a Convener of the Marathi Advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi. He presided over Marathi Sahitya Sammelan at Parbhani in 1995.
In 1998, he received a Padma Shri award from the government of India for excellence in Literature & Education.
The following is a partial list of compilations of Surve's poems and essays:
On the Pavemenu of Life ( 1973 ) is a compilation of English translations of Surve's early poems.