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Diwans take over

This is the fifth of a 16-part series on Bangalore, which will culminate in several competitions including a Quiz, Paint Your City, Photograph Your City, Treasure Hunt, and so on for The Hindu NIE participants.


Victoria Hospital, Diwan Sheshadri Iyer's contribution to the City. — Photo:K. Bhagya Prakash.

THE BRITISH usurpation of the State in 1831 could not have been liked by the Wadiyar King or the people. Mummadi Krishna Raja Wadiyar and his supporters frequently urged for the return of power. It is said, however, that the two famous Commissioners, Cubbon and Bowring, were hostile to the idea. No wonder the king took to philosophical and cultural activities and eventually passed away a dejected man in 1868.

Power was finally restored to the Wadiyars and the rendition took place in 1881. The Bangalore Cantonment became an "Assigned Tract" outside the control of the State Government. The commissioner's post was abolished and the diwan functioned as the head of the administration.

There were 13 diwans from 1881 to 1947 - C. Rangacharlu (1881-82), K. Seshadri Iyer (1883-1901), T.R.V. Thambuchetty (1901), P.N. Krishnamurthy (1901-06), V.P. Madhava Rao (1906-09), T. Ananda Rao (1909-1912), M. Visvesvaraya (1912-19), M. Kantha Raje Urs (1919-22), Sir Albion Banerjee (1922-26), Sir Mirza Ismail (1926-41), Incharge Diwan Sir M.N. Krishna Rao, N. Madhava Rao (1941-46), and Arcot Ramaswamy Mudaliar (1946-47).

The famous litterateur and journalist, D.V. Gundappa, classifies diwans into two categories - the statesman and the administrator. Among the statesmen, he names four - C. Rangacharlu, Sir Seshadri Iyer, Sir M.Visvesvaraya, and Sir Mirza Ismail.

Diwan Rangacharlu was the first to constitute a people's representative committee to ventilate the common man's views on the functioning of the Government. This was at a time when monarchy or autocracy was the rule of the day. He set up Whitefield as a colony for Anglo Indians. The Bangalore-Mysore railway line was completed and work was also started on the Bangalore-Tiptur line.

The state remembers Seshadri Iyer for the first ever hydro-electric generating unit in India at Shivasamudra (1900), for reforms in administration, for the commencement of Kolar Gold Fields, and for the extension of railway line by over 170 miles. Bangalore remembers him for the new extensions of Basavanagudi and Malleswaram (1898), the Glass House in Lalbagh (1889), Victoria Hospital (1900), Hesaraghatta Water Supply Scheme (1896), and the initial encouragement to set up the Indian Institute of Science (1911). Seshadripuram, Seshadri Road, Seshadri Memorial Library, and his statue in the Cubbon Park remind Bangaloreans of this statesman's valuable contribution. A diwan, who came later, deserves credit for the State becoming "Modern Mysore". This was an achievement we owe to the forethought and untiring efforts of Sir M. Visvesvaraya. The Mechanical Engineering School (1913), Agricultural School (1913), Hebbal Agricultural Training School (1912), Mysore University (1916), and Kannada Sahitya Parishat (1915) owe a great deal to this statesman. Among the industrial units started by him, the major were Bhadravati Iron & Steel, Sandal Oil and Soap Factories (1916), and Tata Silk Farm Laboratory (1913). Krishnaraja Sagar Dam on Cauvery and its canals brought a great deal of prosperity to the farmers and the State. He was also responsible for the beautification of Bangalore. A disciplined life, sincerity of purpose, and practical imagination were the hallmarks of this exceptional statesman.

Sir Mirza Ismail had the vision to take up useful projects. Tippagondanahalli water supply for Bangalore, the Mandya Sugar Factory, ITL, the Porcelain Factory, Hindustan Aircraft, city improvement works such as Silver Jubilee Park, Kalasipalyam Bus Stand, and beautification of circles are some of his several contributions to the City. He was a diwan at a difficult period of time - when the Independence Movement was gathering strength and winds of change were blowing over the country. Many were the troublesome situations such as the Binny Mill strike (1926), the Ganapathi disturbance in Sultanpet (1928), and Nariman episode (1937), which arose during his period. Sir Mirza enhanced the prestige of the office he held and rendered yeoman service to the state. More details about the Diwans can be seen in the author's forthcoming book in Kannada, Bengaloorina Notagalu.

It was the plague of 1898, a calamity for the people that brought a new opportunity for Bangalore city. Many areas were decongested, roads widened, and sanitation improved. Hotels made their appearance and many new industrial units came to be established and people got more employment opportunities.

While the commissioner's rule established the framework of good administration, it was the enlightened diwans' rule, which really ushered in modernisation and progress. New residential extensions, water supply schemes, electricity, technical education, new factories and mills, the growth of railways, road transport vehicles, telegraph... every one of them was a key factor in building up of "Modern Mysore" and its uncrowned capital, Bangalore city.

(Readers may send their comments and suggestions to the author.

He can be contacted on 6520122 or on e-mail: kcmvcm@rediffmail.com).

K. CHANDRAMOULI

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