This article is a small tribute to the greatest CM of Tamil Nadu on his birthday.
To some his story is synonymous to the rise of the nadar caste, to congress men it is the rise of their political clout, however for most Tamil people the story of Kamarajar is the stuff of legends. It is a cliched story, Kamaraj was born on July 15th 1903 in a relatively poor family, he lost his father (who was the sole bread winner of the family) when he was 6, and hence was unable to continue his studies. He worked in his uncle’s cloth shop as a sales boy. Even as a young kid he keenly followed the political movements of the pre-independent India. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was the real turning point in his life, and that event made him to fight for national freedom. After attending the public meeting addressed by M.K Gandhi, he started travelling to villages carrying Gandhi’s propaganda.
He was jailed by the British Government 6 times and he spent 9 years in Jail in the pre-independent India. In the independent India he ruled exactly for 9 years as the CM of Tamil Nadu (Madras State back then) and became one of the biggest political leaders of India.
Relevance of Kamaraj in This Age:
People today give undue importance for Periyar and his role in social reforms while neglecting Kamarajar’s work. This is purely because of the DMK’s propaganda and nothing else. While Kamarajar was jailed for fighting against the British, Periyar wrote a letter to the British administration not give independence to India. He pleaded them to split India and create a separate Dravida country (South India), which would continue to be a dominion of the British empire.
While Kamaraj respected every language and culture, Periyar opposed and abused Sanskrit & Hindi in every possible way and he consistently insulted Tamil as well by saying that it is a language of savages. He wanted to bring English in to everything by killing the native languages.
While Periyar movement mostly helped the OBCs and was only against the Brahmins, Kamaraj worked to elevate every strata of the society. He was the one who abolished heriditary education policy introduced by Rajaji. He provided equal education for every kid irrespective of their castes.
While Periyar promoted destruction of statues and roadside temples around Tamil Nadu, Kamaraj made Parameshwaran (a dalit) as the Hindu Religious Endowments minister and made temples accessible to every sect.
Sadly over the past 30 years Periyar is getting disproportionate importance due the the rule of Dravidian parties.
His political career afforded him to take many roles. He was a freedom fighter, he shaped the way the biggest political party of India functioned, he was the best chief minister of Tamil Nadu. However of all his many accomplishments, the one that Kamaraj is remembered most for is making school education accessible to millions of the rural poor. When he said about his plans of increasing the number of schools and providing free education for the children, everyone in his cabinet said that plan was not feasible as the Government back then did not have sufficient money. However Kamaraj said that he would even go begging in every district if needed and implemented his plan. Thousands of new schools were built and to bring in equality in the schools he brought the concept of uniforms and distributed free uniforms to poor children. In the year 1960 he made education completely free for all poor students. He also made primary education compulsory, however even after these many measures the number of students turned up did not meet the estimate. After discussing the issue with the village heads, Kamaraj understood the root cause; most children back then did not have the means to have one full meal a day. He introduced the Free Mid-Day-Meal Scheme, which made lakhs of students to come to school. It was the real game changer and 14 lakh students benefited. The US based relief agency CARE helped this scheme and offered milk powder, corn flour and refined vegetable oil free of cost to all the schools. He opened numerous colleges and also waived the interests on student’s loan making higher education accessible to everyone.
Most of the dams and irrigation projects were constructed during the Kamarajar’s rule, dams like Lower Bhavani, Mani Muthuar, Cauvery Delta, Aarani River, Vaigai Dam, Amravathi, Sathanur, Krishnagiri, Pullambadi, Parambikulam and Neyaru Dams are constructed in record times. 150 lakh acres of lands were cultivated during Kamaraj’s period.
Several Industries were started during that period. Neyveli Lignite Scheme, Raw photo film industry at Nilgri, Surgical instruments factory at Guindy , Sugar factories , Bi-Carbonates factories, Cement factories, Railway coach factory at Avadi, Mettur paper industry, were started only in the period of Kamaraj.
Tamil Nadu was the best administered state back then and was the first state to provide electricity to all the villages. Today Goa is the most urbanized state followed by Tamil nadu, however if one goes by geographical area and total population, Tamil Nadu is the most urbanised state of India. Most of the credit for this goes to Kamaraj for developing the villages and rural areas. The combined work done by all the other governments cannot match the work done by him during his 9 year rule.
Kamarajar’s Role in Destroying Congress:
In 1963 he resigned from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Post and proposed that all senior Congress leaders should resign from their posts and devote all their energy to the re-vitalization of the Congress. The plan was called as the Kamaraj Plan and following his lead six Union Ministers and six Chief Ministers including Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Morarji Desai, Biju Patnaik and S.K. Patil resigned from their posts. Kamaraj was chosen as the Congress Party’s National head by the end of that year. He was responsible for the election of Lal Bahadur Shastri as the PM of India. After the unfortunate demise of Shastri, Kamaraj got the opportunity to become the PM, however he rejected that idea and made a reluctant Indira as the PM of India.
Eventually that move rung the death knell for congress. Indira Gandhi became so close to the Soviet and implemented extreme pro-left policies in India without worrying about the long term consequences. Kamaraj and other leaders who opposed Indira’s views were side-lined and she broke the congress in to two units – The original congress and her faction Congress (R). Kamarajar remained with the original congress until his death, but congress never became a force again in Tamil nadu, and at the national level the new party was reduced to a tent of sycophants worshiping the Indira dynasty.
Therefore the sycophant congress leaders of today don’t have any right to take the name of Kamarajar in their speeches, because the original congress merged itself with the Janata Party in 1977.
When he died he had no bank balance and had just 2 set of clothes, not one relative of his got any government favor. He even prevented his mother from staying with him in his official residence and gave her just Rs. 120 for her monthly expenses from his salary. It is hard to fathom such leaders in day when even remotely distant relatives of politicians are becoming millionaires, media barons, real estate tycoons and men of power.