Sir Dr.M.VISVESVARAYA – Bharata Ratna (The Gem of India)
Any state will be lucky to have a minister of Visvesvaraya’s ability. Would any salary be too high for such a genius? The Maharaja’s secretary suggested to the Maharaja that MV’s salary should be raised; he had not consulted MV. Visvesvaraya came to know about it. He wrote to the Maharaja saying that he did not want a rise.
For some time, when the Bhadravati Factory was in trouble, he worked as the Chairman. At that time, the Government had not decided the salary. It took some years to do so; the Government owed him more than a hundred thousand rupees. But he did not touch a rupee even. He told the Government, “Start an institute where boys can learn some profession.”
The Institute was about to start work. The Government wanted to name it after Visvesvaraya. But he said, “Name it after the Maharaja of Mysore.” This is the Sri Jayachamaraja Polytechnic Institute of Bangalore.
How many such selfless patriots’ do we have?
Free India honors great servants of the country every year by awarding titles. The highest of this award is ‘Bharata Ratna’. In 1955 Visvesvaraya was made a ‘Bharata Ratna’, the Gem of India. He was a gem of mankind itself.
Visvesvaraya was a genius. The Block System which he invented, the automatic doors which he devised to stop wasteful overflow of water, the water supply and drainage system which he planned for the city of Aden – these won high praise from engineers all over the world. The Krishnarajasagara Dam is a brilliant proof of his genius.
His memory was an amazing as his genius. We saw how in 1908 he tamed the Moosa. Fifty years later, one day, there was a discussion about the river, and he referred to some detail.
Then he called a servant and, pointing to a bookshelf, said, “Bring the three or four books in the middle of the third row.” Then he opened one of them and pointed to the detail under discussion on one page. He was 96 or 97 when this happened.
How did Visvesvaraya use his genius and his extraordinary memory? This is the important question. He was the embodiment of discipline and hard work. He was never late by a minute and he never wasted a minute. Once a minister was late by three minutes; MV advised him to be punctual. A man should do any work he undertakes methodically – that was his firm faith. Every man should understand his responsibility and do his best – which was the essence of his teaching. He practiced this very honestly, and there are hundreds of instances to show this. Until he was confined to his bed he was very particular about his clothes. Even when he was 95 people who went to see him were surprised – he was so carefully and neatly dressed.
Quite often he had to make speeches. Because of his genius, experience and mellow wisdom people wanted to hear him. But whenever he had to make a speech he would think about what he was going to say, write, the speech, get it typed and weigh every word and revise it. He would revise it four or five times and give it final shape. Then he would remember important points. Once he visited the Primary School in his native village, Muddenahalli; he gave the teacher ten rupees and asked him to distribute sweets to the children. The teacher said, “Please say a few words to the children, sir,” MV spoke for five minutes and went away. But later he was unhappy because he had spoken without preparation. Some days later he prepared a speech and went to the school again; once again he distributed sweets to the children.
Then he made his speech. In 1947 he was the President of the All India Manufacturers’ Association. He had to make a speech at a function. Some of his friends were staying with him. On the day of the function they woke up at half past four in the morning. What they saw astonished them; Sir MV, who was 87, was already up and faultlessly dressed; he was walking up and down; he had in his hands a copy of the speech he was to make and was carefully reading it!
In 195 he went to Patna. He was to study a plan for a bridge across the Ganga. The sun was cruel and the heat unbearable. MV was 92. There were parts of the site to which he could not go by car. The Government had arranged to have him carried in a chair. MV did not use the chair; he got off the car and walked briskly. The Government had also arranged for his stay in the GuestHouse. He would have been comfortable there. But he stayed in the railway coach and went on with the work.
A hundred such instances of his discipline and devotion to work can be listed. He once said, “The curse of our country is laziness. At first sight everyone seems to be working. But in fact, one man works and the others watch him. As someone said with contempt, ‘it looks as if five men are working. But really only one man works. One man will be doing nothing. One man will be resting. Another man will be watching them. Yet another man will be helping these three.”
Visvesvaraya was dedicated to work. He was also a man of spotless honesty. We saw how, as the Dewan, he refused to favor a relative. In 1918 he decided to give up the Dewanship. He had to give the Maharaja his letter. He went to the palace in the Government car. He returned in his own car. Those were days when people had to work by candlelight. MV used, for official work, the stationery and the candles supplied by the Government; for his private work he used stationery and candles which he had bought. Once, one of his friends was advised rest after some illness. He wanted to spend some days in Bangalore. MV was the Dewan. The friend wrote to him asking for a house for some days. He thought the Dewan would give him a Government Guest House, free of rent. The Dewan gave him a Government House; but as long as the friend stayed there, the Dewan himself paid a rent of Rs. 250 a month.
MV had the courage of his convictions. He did what he thought was right and was not afraid of opposition. We have already seen how much he did for Mysore State. At every step he had to face opposition. The British, who were then the masters here, opposed him. Many Mysoreans could not understand his greatness. He was far-sighted; he could see what the country would need fifty years later, a hundred years later. But the shortsighted and small-minded men made fun of him. Some of the officers under him thought he was not practical and laughed at him. He tried to give -the State a University. Colleges in Mysore State were then under Madras University. The Governor and high off icers of Madras were Englishmen., They did not want a University in an Indian state. Englishmen in Mysore State also opposed the Dewan. In fact, the principal of one college even said, “The Dewan is mad. He must be sent to a mental hospital.” Only because MV was firm, Mysore University was born.
MV also planned the KRS dam. The cost was estimated; it came to 25,300 thousand rupees. Officers of Mysore State were shocked and opposed the scheme. At last Visvesvaraya satisfied the Mysore Government with his arguments and it agreed. A new difficulty arose. MV wanted the height to be 130 feet. The Government of India approved a height of only 80 feet. MV went ahead with a foundation for a dam 130 feet high. Later, the Central Government agreed with him. Many people made fun of him when he started the Bhadravati Steel Factory and called it ‘a White Elephant’. Some officers did not manage it properly and the factory suffered heavy losses. Quite a few persons felt happy! But today it is an asset.
MV was the Maker of Modern Mysore. He wanted education to spread ‘ He wanted people to give up blind beliefs. He wanted the fullest use of science and technology. But he also knew that being modern did not mean giving up everything that was old and forgetting our culture.
Somebody once said to him, “You have done great service to the country. You are like Bhishmacharya.” MV said, “You make me remember what a small man I am. What am I before Bhishmacharya?” He was so modest. Even at the age of 95, he rose to receive a visitor; he got up again when the visitor was leaving. But he also knew modesty did not mean pocketing insults. In the old Bombay Province the rules did not permit an Indian to become the Chief Engineer. Only an Englishman could sit in the Chief Engineer’s chair. So MV gave up his post in Bombay. The Dewan was the highest officer in Mysore State. He himself gave up that very high office. He had self-respect without arrogance.
Sir MV was a fearless patriot. Those were days when the Englishman was the lord of India and wanted to be treated like a god. The Maharaja of Mysore used to hold a Durbar during the Dasara. On the day of the European Durbar, the Europeans were given comfortable chairs but Indians were required to sit on the floor. MV went to the Durbar for the first time in 1910. The arrangements pained him. The next year he did not attend the Durbar. When the officers of the palace made enquiries he f rankly gave the reason. Next year all – Europeans and Indians -were given chairs. A British officer wrote a letter to MV. He said that in the Maharaja’s Durbar, he wanted a cushion to rest his feet because the chair was too high. MV got the legs of the chair shortened and wrote to him that the height had been reduced. In 1944, an association arranged* a conference. Visvesvaraya was the Chairman of the association. The Governor of Berar, an Englishman, was to open the conference.
(In those days the Governors were very powerful.) The conference was to discuss a resolution that India should have a national government. The Governor said that the resolution should not be discussed. “Otherwise,” he said, “I will not come.” Sir MV said to his friends, “All right. Why wait for him? Let us go on with the conference.
MV gave thousands of families food, he gave thousands and thousands of students education. Tens of thousands of houses are bright with electricity because of him. And he led the country to the path of progress.
The Bhadravati Steel Factory, Mysore University, Krishnarajasagara, the Bank of Mysore – every one of his creations was mighty and magnificent. But far mightier and far more magnificent was the Bharata Ratna, who was at once a matchless Dreamer and Doer.
He once said:
“Remember, your work may be only to sweep a railway crossing, but it is your duty to keep it so clean that no other crossing in the world is as clean as yours.”