Revisiting days of yore

Last Updated 22 June 2015, 17:23 IST

A COLOURFUL LIFE S Narendra Prasad chronicles the life of V P Madhava Rao as an administrator and discusses the various socio-political changes that occurred during his tenure.

He began his career as a journalist and came to Mysore to earn a livelihood. He gradually rose to prominence and ultimately retired as a civil servant. He also served as a Dewan and in various other administrative capacities, during which he carried out his responsibilities to the fullest and ablest. Vishwanath Patankar Madhava Rao, CIE, was from the Madras province and spent much of his professional life in the Mysore province.

He was appointed in the Mysore Civil Services and as a judge. He also worked as Deputy Commissioner in Shimoga district. In 1892, he was appointed Inspector General of Police. When plague struck Mysore Province, he discharged his duties as Plague Commissioner and laid emphasis on health and hygiene. In 1902, he was appointed as Revenue Commissioner. On March 30, 1906, Madhava Rao assumed office as the Dewan.

His colourful tenure marked significant changes in the administration, like the expansion of the powers of the Revenue Commissioner, the formation of the Mysore Legislative Council and the amendments to its rules. He gave much prominence to famine protective works, particularly the construction of tanks. Minor tanks were also rejuvenated and taken up for further strengthening of bunds. The third installation of hydro-electric power of Cauvery Power Scheme was also given more prominence.

Agriculture & industry
Taking into consideration the vast popularity of Agricultural and Industrial exhibition held during Dasara 1908, the Dewan desired to encourage both agriculture and industry. Cattle shows were conducted. Agricultural experiments were continued. Experiments conducted in paddy cultivation were brought to the notice of farmers. The experimental stations at Hebbal were expanded. Dr Coleman was appointed as mycologist and entomologist to study pests and fungoid diseases. He conducted experiments to fight koleroga. He commenced investigations on the potato disease.

Tank Panchayat was another area in which he proved his capability. By constituting this, he tried his best to rejuvenate tank irrigation. On October 1, 1908, the Tank Panchayat Bill was introduced in the council. Later in 1911, it came to be enacted. Records provide us interesting statistics regarding eradication of plague.

In July 1905, the rat killing scheme was introduced. An amount of Rs 2670 was spent on killing 23,000 rats. The scheme was extended to Bangalore. For the years 1907-08, rat destruction was carried on a large scale in Bangalore and Mysore cities.

In 1906, construction of railway track from Bangalore to Chikkaballapur began. The Madras and Southern Maratha Railway Company commenced a survey of Mysore-Hassan line. The mining industry was given impetus.

In the field of education, much progress was achieved. The tuition fee of private candidates appearing for English in Lower Secondary Examination was reduced from Rs 10 to Rs seven. A school for training shekdars or revenue inspectors in surveying, drawing and minor engineering was opened at Bangalore.

It is interesting to note that nearly a century ago, sincere attempts were made to introduce Kindergarten in Mysore State. In 1907, the government decided to introduce a good system of education for boys and girls. Accordingly they were to be provided training in all their faculties. For this, the services of an English expert in Kindergarten were utilised and for the manual training, that of an American expert.

Education in village elementary schools was made free. The pay of all school teachers drawing less than Rs 10 a month was raised by one rupee. Homi J Bhabha was deputed to study the system as it was then prevalent in the elementary and higher elementary schools in England and USA.

 Another highlight of this department was the conduct of educational exhibition during the Dasara of 1907. Madhava Rao was instrumental in passing the Mysore Newspaper Regulation in 1908, which required every printer, publisher and editor of a newspaper to obtain the permission of the Government. In Mysore state, the Act created public opinion against the Dewan. Many newspapers, particularly vernaculars, were against the Bill.

Staff and administration
The Dewan had T Ananda Rao and K P Puttanna Chetty as first and second councillors. During this time, the councillors were entrusted with certain level of administrative responsibilities. They too enjoyed executive powers, although in a limited manner.

On October 5, 1907, the Dasara Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition was opened by the Maharaja in the Special Reserve Police Lines building. Cattle shows were held at Ghati Subramanya, Nandi, Chunchanakatte and Kudlu. To provide water, well-boring instruments were sanctioned to Kolar district.

By 1908, because of retrenchment, the Government had saved Rs 2,96,000 for two years. As a result of this, the budgetary figures for 1907-08 showed a surplus of Rs 12,74,000.

The general financial position was strong. According to statistics available, the government had saved nearly Rs 48 lakh. During this time, in January 1906, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Mysore. On this occasion, the Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of the Chamarajendra Technical Institute at Mysore. During the later days, Madhava Rao’s period witnessed severe drought and distress. There was deficient rain in the maidan region.

Kolar, Tumkur and Chitaldurg districts were severely affected. Ragi and corn failed. Measures of drought relief were carried. Drinking water wells were constructed. The Government suspended the collection of grazing fee (hulbanni) in the affected areas. On March 13, 1909, Madhava Rao retired from a fruitful career.

(Published 22 June 2015, 17:23 IST)

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