1) LIFE AND TIMES OF STATESMAN, ADMINISTRATOR EXTRAORDINAIRE: DIWAN SIR THANJAVUR MADHAVA ROW: URMILA RAU LAL: BHARATIYA VIDYA BHAVAN: PAGES: 190: PRICE RS 365/-
The octogenarian author is the great great granddaughter of Sir T Madhava Row (1828-1891). A medical biologist by profession, Urmila Rau Lal has extensively worked in the field of scientific research in prestigious institutes in India and abroad and has won many fellowships in her field of parasitology and medical entomology. She takes active interest in the Senior Citizens’ movement in Pune and has been working at various fora to provide special conveniences for the older as well as differently abled people in the country. Inspired by her late father Captain Ramchandar Lakshman Rau (Retd.) to write a biography on an extraordinary ancestor, she fulfilled her father’s wish by writing this biography for which he had painstakingly gathered a lot of information. It is but natural that she has dedicated her work of love to her parents.
Sir T Madhava Row was born in a Thanjavur Marathi family of Kumbakonam in 1828 and was educated at Madras. He became Dewan of the erstwhile Travancore state at the young age of 30 which position he held for 14 years. During this period he worked wonders and transformed the State into a vibrant and model state. Anarchy was rampant and the Treasury was empty when he took over. Despite his young age, he took the challenges that he faced head-on. He had a grand vision for the State. He established a large number of prestigious institutions that today adorn the landscape of Thiruvananthapuram. He brought about good governance. Be it in strengthening the Public Works Department (PWD), starting of a telegraphic office and the postal department for the convenience of the general public, formalizing the Education Department with the appointment of a Director. He worked towards increasing the literacy and educational levels. Schools were modernized. He achieved in establishing a school in each of the 30 districts. He ordered that English books be translated into Malayalam. A teacher’s training school was started and a new Law School was set up. Jobs were created for the passing out candidates from the law school. Girl’s education was given special attention. Medical aid, vaccination and public health received special attention. “To provide every subject within a couple of hours of journey, the advantage of a doctor, a school master, a judge, a magistrate, a registering officer and a postmaster” was his burning ambition which he achieved in good measure. He gave great importance to improving the infrastructure. Roads, bridges, canals and tunnels were built, forests were reclaimed, and new industries like coffee cultivation were encouraged. For a State which was running on borrowed funds and had large arrears of salaries to its staff, within 5 years he declared that Travancore had no public debt. When he left the Travancore State had a reserve fund of Rs 40 lakhs which was a huge amount in 1872. He turned Travancore into a model state. In all the steps that he took, he received excellent support from the Royal family. Sir T Madhava Row’s exceptional administrative qualities were even praised by Mahatma Gandhi. The British Liberal statesman Henry Fawcett called him “the Turgot of India” (French statesman, financier and economist)
From Travancore he moved on to Indore (1873-1875) and from thereon to Baroda (1875-1882). In both these states as Diwan he carried out his “development model” and introduced major administrative, police and judicial reforms. He campaigned for the cause of women’s education and attacked child marriage. The author has given numerous examples of his intellectual brilliance, decision making capabilities, his art of maintaining a fine balance between the Maharaja and the British by using his mastery of the English language and his capacity to convince the British on the King’s viewpoints on many ticklish issues. This raised his respectability in front of their eyes. Sir T Madhava Row was a man of head and heart. He was popular with the masses for his honesty and integrity and for cleansing the States of all forms of corruption and undesirable elements. His Western style education was largely instrumental for his modern ideas. He left behind an indelible impression in the minds and hearts of people he came across. In addition to his many achievements, Sir T Madhava Row also had several other feathers in his cap. His fondness for music resulted in the formation of a Gayan Samaj in Poona. He had earlier actively participated in the formation of a similar branch in Madras 1883. He maintained a very cordial relationship with Christian leaders and educationists.
We owe a sense of gratitude for this biography to the author for having taken immense pains and for her interactions with various generations of families who had known Sir T Madhava Row and to give the readers a full-blown account of the outstanding qualities of this remarkable administrator and reformer. The book is interesting from the perspective of Kerala’s history and the turnaround achieved in the State in all areas of human activity. Development with good governance were the hallmarks during Sir T Madhava Row’s tenure which he accomplished with his extraordinary language skills, administrative abilities, an empathetic attitude and a high degree of personal integrity, dedication and commitment for the development of the State and a sense of fair play.
There are many anecdotes and nuggets of information in the book which make it very readable. In Appendix V of the book, Sir T Madhava Row’s ‘Rules for the Ruler’ (twenty five of them) which he prepared after the death of Maharaja Visakham Tirunal, are given which are as relevant today as it was then. This book is a recommended read for the nation’s youth and all who join the administrative service. A series of his lectures addressed to the young King of the state of Baroda in the form of a publication called “Minor Hints” is a reference manual even today to the State Government. His phenomenal achievement as Diwan of the three States he worked for in his illustrious career is an object lesson for the younger generation and in particular for all our budding IAS officers.