Early life of Kumarasami Kamaraj
The early life of Kamaraj remains in bold letters in the writings of Indians history. On July 15, 1903, in the tiny town of Virdunagar , Tamil Nadu, and a baby boy was born. Born in a family of traders to Kumarasamy Nadar and Sivakami Ammal, he was named Kumaraswamy Kamaraj Nadar. His father, Kumarasamy, was a coconut merchant who used to sell coconuts for a living, thus his family was not on the rich end and Kamarajhad to start from this humble beginning. His name was affectionately shortened to Raja by his mother. Kamaraj’s life could only be made difficult by death of his father, and his mother was left to sell all the jewelry except the earrings to care for the entire family. Kamaraj has one of the most successful cheif ministers of Tamilnadu and a powerful politician in Indian politics, yet he did not even complete his high school due to poverty.
K Karamaj was to become one of the greats in the Indian politics. He was an Indian politician widely known as the “the Kingmaker” in Indian politics during the 1960s. In the period from 1954-1963, he was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and also a member of parliament between 1952-1954 and 1969-1975.
Kamaraj’s drew his inspiration from a political guru, S. Satyamurti, an orator and a parliamentarian. Satyamurti had found an efficient, loyal, skillful organizer and indefatigable worker in Kamaraj. They both had a very good friendship and could complement each other’s skill. When Satyamurti was elected as the President of Provincial Congress in 1936, he appointed Kamaraj as the General Secretary. After four years they swapped their positions and the party base became much strengthened under their stewardship. Kamaraj’s devotion to Satyamurti was so much that when the country gained independence, he went first to Satyamurti and hoisted the Indian flag at his house. On his election as a Chief Minister, Kamaraj went back, garlanded his photo and paid his tribute and respect to the leader’s window.
During his reign as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, he supported and strived to provide free meals to the people and made sure basic education was available in the time. The state made immense strides in trade and education where new schools were opened and there were no panchayat without high school enrollment. Kamaraj strove to a great extent to eradicate illiteracy by introducing free learning that was also compulsory to all eligible citizens .This was for a first time the world had come to see a measure like this being executed and equally successful, making him widely respected for his traits of integrity, honesty and simplicity that he approached his way of leadership.
Kamaraj remained the Chief Minister for a three consecutive term period. He resigned from office on October 2, 1963, to serve a greater purpose for the nation. After noting that the Congress party was starting to lose its renowned vigor, he came up with a plan referred the” Kamaraj plan”. The plan proposed that all the senior leaders in the party to resign their post and devote all their time and energy in revitalizing the Congress. A good number of Central and State Ministers like Jagjivan Ram, Lal Bahadur Shastri, S.K. Patil and Morarji Desai resigned and followed the suite of Kamaraj. In 1964, Kamaraj was elected as the President of the All India Congress and went on to navigate the nation successfully through the stormy years that followed Nehru’s death.
Kamaraj with Nehru
Kamaraj with Indira Gandhi and Radhakrishnan
During the struggle for independence in India from the British rule, Kamaraj became a close friend of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, who was later to be appointed as the first Prime Minister in the country. He also played a very crucial role in the appointment of other two Indian prime Ministers; La Bahadur Shastri in 1964 and then Indira Gandhi in 1966.
Government Schemes during his rule
Kamaraj with his small cabinet of ministers
During his time as a Chief Minister, Kamaraj did away with the earlier family vocation based Hereditary Education Policy that had been introduced by Rajaji. After the change, the school education system went under revolution and that saw opening of new schools under the new policies. In the poor rural areas, students were to walk not more than 3 miles to get to the nearest school and better facilities were also part of the package. When Karamaj realised humgry children could not focus in their school he introduced the Midday Meal Scheme, it was meant to provide at least one meal per day to the poor school children.
The mid day meal scheme was a great success since the parents were happy to send their children to school since they would get healthy meal and for the kids they can focus on learning with a full stomach.
Furthermore, the students were provided with free school uniforms to weed out creed and class distinctions among the developing young minds.
Kamaraj with Children – recipients of his education schemes
Kamaraj’s period recorded an impressive 37% education rate from the previous 7% during the British regime. Apart from an increase in the number of schools, the standards were improved, that is, unnecessary holidays reduced and syllabuses updated to give opportunities to different abilities.
Major schemes in the agriculture sector came during Kamaraj’s reign . Irrigation schemes were introduced,, where dams and irrigation canals were developed majorly on the Lower Bhavani, Mani Aarani, Muthar,Vaigai ,Sathanur, Pullambadi,Krishnagiri and Neyyaru among others. The main Lower Bhavani Dam and Mettur Dam in Erode district led to many acres of land to be rehabilitated and brought to cultivation. The systems in Vaigai and Sathanur facilitated more cultivation across thousands of land acres in North Arcot and Madurai districts respectively.
Under the Small Irrigation Scheme in 1957-1961, tanks were de-silted and more than 2,000 wells dug with outlets. Farmers were given long term loans with 25% subsidy and the others with dry lands were provided with oil engines and pumps on an installment basis.
Honesty and Integrity
Even as Kamaraj oversaw broad economic gains achieved in his time, he remained a man with right personality. He did all his duties boldly, courageous and open to others including the opposite parties. He listened to them and easily solved the political disputes among them.
He honored all the news reporters. He could easily move around with photographers, made reply to letters or calls, and could listen to grievances crossed to him. He could easily understand all the problems and act without hesitation and in time.
There was no village across the state his feet never touched. From the Mountains area or the river side, he could easily describe with enough evidence the climate of that region.
He denied himself and his mother any preferential treatment because he was the Chief Minister. Once he went to meet his sick mother in his village, he noticed that a water tap connection was installed inside the house for the sake of his ailing mother. He scolded the Municipality Board officer for this special treatment and asked him to remove the tap connection immediately.
When Kamaraj died he lived in a rented house and his assets were Rs 120, few shirts and 6 dhotis!
An example for today’s politicians
Indeed Kamaraj will be survived by his work during his time. The world can only quote and copy the effort he made to the benefit of human race. Most world leaders have rose to these high position to satisfy their greed for power and have allowed corruption to erode the morals of such esteemed positions all to the expense of poor citizens in their nations. Kamaraj’s honesty, integrity, hard work, and the unbridled passion for his work can be an example to illustrate that greed, bias, corruption and wickedness has no place even in the modern society.
The politicians of today need to realise that they are here to serve the people who elected them to power in the first place and can learn a few things from their predecessors like Kumarasami Kamaraj.
Image Credit: Kamarajar.blogspot.com