Remembering ‘Kalvi Thanthai’ Kamaraj

From School Dropout To Crusader of Free Education


Rapid strides were made on education front during Kamaraj’s chief ministership between ‘54 and ‘63 when new schools with facilities were opened across Tamil Nadu. And he ensured that no village remained sans primary school and no panchayat without a high school. As a dropout, he strained his nerves to eradicate illiteracy by introducing complusory education upto eleventh standard. Moreover, he came up with the idea of offering free mid-day meal scheme in schools for the benefit of children from below poverty line families.
It is interesting to note that it was Kamaraj, who broughtforth the school uniform system in schools to remove caste, creed, colour and class among the young minds. Yet another valuable info is that he was instrumental in increasing the literacy rate to 37% from 7% during British era. In a step further, he not only increased the school count, but also took strenuous steps to increase the standard of education. Even the number of working days were increased from 180 to 200 minimising the holidays. A matter of great pride that IIM Madras was established by him alongwith Governor Bishnuram Medhi in 1959. Thus, he earned the prefix ‘Kalvi Thanthai’ for his literacy initiatives.
Looking back Kamaraj’s life history, he was born on July 15, 1903 at Virudhunagar. Not many are aware of the fact that his original name was Kamatchi. He had to dropout of the school when he lost his father when he was just six years old and was forced to shoulder the responsibility of the family in 1914 wherein he worked at a provision shop.
His regular reading of newspapers created an interest in politics and thus started to attend public meetings on Indian Home Rule Movement. The Jalianwala Bagh massacre made him plunge into freedom movement to end British rule. And the rest is the history.
Noteworthy to mention, Kamaraj brought in major irrigation schemes wherein dams were constructed during his regime. To name a few are Bhavani, Mani Muthar, Aarani, Vaigai, Amaravathi, Sathanur, Krishnagiri, Pullambadi, Parambikulam and Neyyaru while Neyveli Lignite Corporation, Trichy BHEL, Manali Refinery, Ooty Hindustan Photo Films, Chennai surgical instruments factory, ICF in Chennai were established besides many industries such as paper, sugar, chemicals and cement were established during Kamaraj’s regime.
Kamaraj remained a bachelor all thru’ his life and didn’t possess any property. He had no craze for power and he left behind just 130 rupees, 2 pairs of sandals, 4 khadar shirts and 4 dhothis and a few books. He died in his sleep on Gandhi Jayanthi day at the age of 72 in 1975.

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