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A people's king

Being a zamindar himself did not deter him from moving the Amendment to the Estates Land Act, which was meant to safeguard the rights of the cultivators. As Chief Minister of the composite Madras Presidency, he was instrumental in getting the Act passed, despite opposition and criticism from fellow zamindars.

"While the objective of the Estates Land Act is to safeguard the rights of cultivating tenants, in practice, occupancy rights had been passing into the hands of middlemen whose only interest in the land is to extract the highest possible rent, and in the process the tillers are being reduced to the position of serfs," he said making a convincing statement on the floor of the Legislative Council in August 1933.

On the Inams Bill, he said: "One third of the Presidency was in the hands of Zamindars and one third of it in the hands of major and minor Inamdars. In 5000 Inam villages, there were five million cultivators. The bill is meant to ensure the happiness of the cultivators, who are in a state of serfdom and slavery. The cultivating tenant had inherent rights of property in the land, subject to his paying reasonable rent."

He introduced a Bill to improve the Tirumala-Tirupati Temple Administration. Harijans were appointed to the Temple Administration Committees in various parts of the Presidency. His contribution to the promotion of education in general and to Andhra University in particular, besides Rabindranath Tagore's Santhiniketan, speak volumes of his generosity.

Born on February 20, 1901, Ramakrishna Ranga Rao, the 13th Raja of Bobbili, showed firm determination right from his childhood. He would not leave unfinished any task that he undertook. This attitude was seen all through his life, which proved the adage, `Child is the father of the man'.

It was a bright sunny day in October 1906. Three little boys were playing on the first floor of the majestic Lakshmi Vilas Palace in Bobbili, which housed the children's nursery. The children were trying to build a toy castle with small wooden blocks. Two of them tried in vain and finally gave up when they failed to piece them together.

The third one, who was five years old, however, was not the one to give up so easily. He tried and tried again but did not lose patience, when the blocks tumbled to the ground. His concentration and calculation paid rich dividends and finally after a 90-minute struggle, the boy built the toy castle. As a child he used to play with other boys on the palace premises. He had three English tutors - H.C. Leclare, D. Gordon and F.H.J. Wilkinson - and an Indian tutor, Ramalingaswamy. He used to play badminton and billiards in the palace itself.

Ramakrishna married Lakshmi Subadrayamma, a princess of the Tallaprole Zamindari, a year after the death of his father, Venkata Kumara Krishna, in 1921.

On the insistence of his friends and fellow landholders, he contested the Madras general elections of 1930. He contested from the Vizagapatam Constituency as a Justice Party candidate against the Nationalist Party nominee, C.V.S. Narasimha Raju, and polled 28,000 more votes than his opponent.

Ramakrishna attended the second Round Table Conference held in London in 1931 as a representative of the Indian landholders. He was the youngest Indian delegate to attend that important conference.

On the resignation of C. Muniswamy Naidu as Chief Minister of Madras Province, the Justice Party selected Ramakrishna to head the Ministry. The Governor called upon him to form the Ministry on November 5, 1932. The most important legislative measures that he undertook was the amendment to the Estates Land Act. He said the measure was necessary to remove the difficulties in the working of the Land Act of 1908.

Ramakrishna was a great sportsman and his main interests were racing and polo. He had imported many fine breeds of horses from the U.K., France and Pakistan. He had won a number of cups in horse racing. He was an expert polo player and often played in the Dasara sports at Mysore and Jeypore besides Bobbili.

"Every inch a democrat, he viewed questions from the people's standpoint and his own in every case, writes Nilkan Perumal in his biography on `Bobbili'.

The statue of this visionary king stands majestically on the Beach Road.

B.M.G.

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