Perunthalaivar K. Kamaraj (15 July 1903 – 2 October 1975) was an Indian politician from Tamil Nadu widely acknowledged as the “Kingmaker” in Indian politics during the 1960s. He was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu during 1954-1963 and a Member of Parliament during 1952-1954 and 1969-1975. He was known for his simplicity and integrity.
He was involved in the Indian independence movement. As a high-ranking office bearer of the Indian National Congress, he was instrumental in bringing to power two Prime Ministers, Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 and Indira Gandhi in 1966. In Tamil Nadu, his home state, he is still remembered for bringing school education to millions of the rural poor by introducing free education and the free Midday Meal Scheme during his tenure as chief minister. He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1976. The domestic terminal of the Chennai airport is named “Kamaraj Terminal”, Chennai’s Beach Road renamed “Kamarajar Salai”, Bengaluru’s North Parade Road as “K. Kamaraj Rd.” and the Madurai Kamaraj University in his honor.
Kamaraj was born on 15 July 1903 to Kumarasamy Nadar and Sivakami Ammal at Virudhunagar in Tamil Nadu. His parents were from a trading family. His father Kumarasamy Nadar, was a coconut merchant. Kamaraj was initially enrolled in the Enadhy Nayanar Vidyalaya elementary school, and later in high school Kshatriya Vidyalaya. Kamaraj’s father died when he was six years old and his mother was forced to support her family by selling her jewelry. In 1914, Kamaraj dropped out of school to support his family.
On 13 April 1954, K. Kamaraj became the Chief Minister of Madras Province. To everyone’s surprise, Kamaraj nominated C. Subramaniam and M. Bhakthavatsalam, who had contested his leadership, to the newly formed cabinet. Never did Kamaraj aspire for any post in the party or in the administration. For him the posts were like a towel over the, Without any hesitation he chose to quit posts for the benefit of the future shoulder.
There was the situation that the construction of schools , serving mid-day meals , appointing teachers were the duties of the government. Kamaraj wanted to change this and started a great revolutionary plan.
Because of that plan every individual realised to think the education was his responsibility. That was the plan for growth of schools. Conference were conducted and donations were collected from public. About four crores of rupees were donated by public. Poor students were given free books and slates. Lakhs of poor students were benefited.
A scheme for giving free uniform to poor children were organised and implemented . Kamaraj wanted to avoid the partiality between the poor and the rich students. Result was free uniform scheme. This stopped the inferiority complex among the students.
Kamaraj wanted to give free education to all the students. He decided to give free education up to eleventh standard to all the poor students in the year 1960. The annual income of the parents of those students who get the concession should be less than 1200/- . He modified this order in 1962-63 . Children of the parents whose income was Rs 1500/- per annum could also get free education upto 11th Std., Apart from this order were issued that children of N.G.O’s employees of Panchayat Unions may also get free education upto High School education.
To avoid illiteracy he formed compulsory primary education. He formed committee to make propaganda in villages about the importance of education.
Though compulsory and free education were there was no proper response. Kamaraj seriously thought the reasons , therefore he meet the villagers and discussed with them. Found out the reason. He arrived at an solution.
How can a parent who is lean bodied due to poverty , powerless eyes , scattered hair without oil and who struggles for at least one time food send his ward to the school. He will send his children to schools at least if they get one time food. Immediately Kamaraj arranged for this. Free Mid-Day-Meal Scheme made lakhs of students to come to school . Countries all over the world praised this . Nehruji was much pleased.
The Mid-Day-Meal Scheme properly started in 1956. Over 14 lakhs students were benefited . This scheme got help from CARE OF USA in 1961-62. Milk powder , corn flour and re-fined vegetable oils were sent free of costs to schools from CARE.
Kamaraj who was deeply worried about the growth of education decided to induce the interest of public. The government took responsibility to govern , fulfill the schemes for the growth of education. These were intensified during Kamaraj’s period only. But public did not show their interest and direct involvement.
Right from 1956-57 free education was given to the children of elementary school teacher , police constables , head constables and the lower grade employees of government. It came to know in the next year that only 17% of students were not getting free education . To compensate this a scheme for free education to all was announced in 1962.
Major irrigation schemes were planned in Kamaraj’s period . Lower Bhavani, Mani Muthuar, Cauvery Delta, Aarani River, Vaigai Dam, Amravathi, Sathanur, Krishnagiri, Pullambadi, Parambikulam and Neyaru Dams were among them. The Lower Bhavani Dam in Coimbatore district was constructed with an expenditure of Rs 10/- Crores. 2,07,000 acres of land are under cultivation.
45,000 acres of land are benefited through the Mettur canal of Salem. Another scheme was Krishnagiri in the same district. Vaigai, Sathanur facilitate to cultivate thousands of acres of lands in Madurai and North Arcot districts respectively. Rs 30 crores were planned to spend for Parambikulam River scheme in Kamaraj’s period. This has helped with the development of Coimbatore district in the agriculture field
In 1957-61 1,628 Tanks were de-silted under Small Irrigation Scheme 2000 wells were dug with outlets. Long-term loans with 25% subsidy were given to farmers. Apart from farmers who are having dry lands were given oil engines, electric pump sets on an installment basis.
150 lakhs of acres of lands were cultivated during Kamaraj’s period. One-third of this i.e. 56 lakhs of acres of land get the permanent watering facility.
Industries with an investment in crores of Rupees were started in his period. Neyveli Lignite Scheme, Raw photo film industry at Nilgiri, Surgical instruments factory at Guindy, Sugar factories, Bi-Carbonates factories, Cement factories, Railway coach factory at Avadi, Mettur paper industry, were started only in the period of Kamaraj. These are the backbone of the development of the nation.
Madras state stood first in India in providing electricity to rural areas.
13,300 villages were given electricity during 1955 – 61. Using electric power for agriculture purpose Madras state stands first.
The expense to improve electricity at Madras in 1959 was Rs.2.71 crores. Hydropower station at Periyar was constructed at an expenditure of Rs.9 crores . 1 lakh K.W. of electricity produced under this scheme.
Kunda Dam project was constructed at an expenditure of Rs 3.5 crores. Nehruji inaugurated this project. It was completed in a very short period by over engineers which made foreigners wonder. In 1958-59 the investment in electricity connection was 95 crores and the income increased to Rs 12 crores.
Avadi Congress Conference was held on 20th January 1956. It was the 6th Conference. Kamaraj constructed a city and named it as Sathyamoorthy Nagar.
Since Kamaraj took charge as C.M. from 1954 he formed interim ministry and governed for 3 1/2 years. His record was appreciated d by all. Even opposite party people were afraid to blame his rule.
At this situation in the 1957 general election Congress won with an absolute majority, out of 205 seats Congress bagged 151. It astonished the whole India. For Madras state assembly Kamaraj won and became C.M. . He formed the second ministry.
Kamaraj submitted the list to the Governor A.J.John consisting the names of M/s. M.Bakthavathsalam , C.Subramanian , A.Manickavelan , P.Kakkan , V.Ramiah and Mrs.Lurdu Ammal Simon. His 2nd ministry took charge in 13th April 1957. Later R.Venkatraman was included in the ministry.
In 1957 general election Kamaraj was elected from Sathur Constituency . This election was a lesson to Kamaraj. Except Ananda Vikatan , the Tamil weekly , no paper or magazine supported Congress.
In general they were against Congress. Though Congress won in the election Kamaraj felt that there should be a news paper for Congress.
According to his wish a Tamil Daily by name ” Thai Nadu ” was proposed to be started in 1958.
But due to some delay in getting the machinery the daily could not be started. The registration of title was also expired.
In 1960 a daily by name ” Nava Sakthi ” was started. It was out and out for Kamaraj. The aim of it was to propaganda Kamaraj’s view.
In the 1962 election Congress bugged 139 seats and DMK 50. The communist who got 15 seats in 1952 election could get only 4 in 1957.Now it got only 2 seats.
Kamaraj was elected as C.M. for the third time. He sworn in as C.M. before the then Governor Vishnu Ram Methi. on 15th March 1962. There were 9 persons including the C.M. in the ministry. It is to noted that it was only the smallest cabinet in India.
Vinobaji toured Madras state ( 1956) only during Kamaraj’s period. Kamaraj joined with him in tour and addressed the meeting s. Vinobaji saw the affection of the public towards Kamaraj and said that he was only the true follower of Gandhiji.
Kamaraj was not only sitting in the fort where the flag was flying but he also was in the hearts of the public. He was the public and public was him. He was the only leader who constructed a bridge between the huts and the fort. He stood first in having a remarkable memory power in public life. Kamaraj was the main reason to forbid the red tapism in government.
Kamaraj remained Chief Minister for three consecutive terms. On October 2, 1963, he resigned to serve a greater purpose. Kamaraj noticed that the Congress party was slowly losing its vigor . He came up with a plan which was called the “Kamaraj Plan.” He proposed that all senior Congress leaders should resign form their posts and devote all their energy to the re-vitalization of the Congress. A number of Central and State ministers like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Morarji Desai and S.K. Patil followed suite and resigned from their posts. In 1964, Kamaraj was elected the President of the All India Congress and he successfully navigated the nation through the stormy years following Nehru’s death.