We always talk about Vision and Purpose-driven leaders who played a major role in revolutionizing society and bringing change. Anyone can preach, but only people with determination and vision can practice what they preach. A great leader who showcased this and was able to think much beyond his lifetime is Kumaraswami Kamaraj, popularly known as Kamarajar. K. Kamaraj was one of the pioneers to contribute to the expansion of free education in the Tamil Nadu State. He played a leading role in bringing about reforms in the education system and made it one of the best in India. He believed that the man who does not work for the progress of our country is equal to the corpse”.
Kamarajar was born on July 15th 1903 in Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu. His birthday is celebrated as Educational Development Day. Kamarajar was a visionary. A key reason why most of us in the state of Tamil Nadu were able to use tech, travel the world, work in large corporations or create large corporations is Kamarajar. He abolished the Kula Kavi Thittam’ and re-opened 6000 schools that were closed.
Kula Kavi Thittam In 1953, the Indian National Congress government of the Madras State, led by C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), implemented the unsuccessful Kulakavi thittam programme. The plan suggested adding two shifts or sessions to primary schools. Regular instruction would take place in one session, and in the second, the pupils would be sent home to learn about their parents' jobs. Hindu professions were caste-based, therefore it sparked controversy and accusations that it was a casteist plot to maintain the caste system.
Kamaraj was also instrumental in setting up a number of colleges and universities. It is important to note that after Kamaraj’s reforms, Madras’ education rate, which had been just 7% during British control, increased to 37%. He also opened thousands of other schools and brought in the meals scheme at school for the kids (which later got converted to the Mid Day Scheme). Moreover, in an effort to eliminate caste, creed, and class disparities, he distributed free school uniforms. And, in 1964, Tamil Nadu became the first Indian State to introduce free education up to Standard XI.
He was a man who believed in the power of education. He always believed that education is the key to progress and development. Education for him was not just about imparting knowledge but also about developing the human mind with good values. Kamaraj didn’t receive formal education and he didn’t earn a college degree. But he was sure that if anything could change the fate of the people of his state, it was education.
Moreover, Kamaraj was a person who recognized the value of female education. He said educating women is to educate the family and believed it is the duty of each individual to make his country prosperous, strong, and happy; but it is also his duty to see that the prosperity and happiness of his own family be maintained. He believed educating women will help to raise the standards of family and bring prosperity.
In his final days as Chief Minister, he had said: “If we can bring about a change in one person’s attitude by means of education then we have done something worthwhile.”
Being known as a development practitioner and kingmaker of Indian politics, Kamarajar was also referred to as Karma Veerar (believed in letting his actions speak), and Karupu Gandhi. The visionary leader was the Chief Minister of the State of Tamil Nadu for Nine Years from 13 April 1954 – 2 October 1963. And during his tenure as the Chief Minister, he had succeeded in bringing about industrialization, agricultural development and infrastructure development in a short period of time.
His forward-looking political approaches contributed to the reshaping of his own state. He fought for equality among all sections of society irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The long-term vision must be clear to everybody” and “It should not be only an issue of political expediency”. These are two values that Kamraj showed us through his life. We need true leaders like him to guide development in India and unite all sections of the society and bring them together. His life is an inspiration. Thank you Kamarajar.