A GREAT SCIENTIST — VISVESVARAYA
Some people are born great. On some greatness is thrust. But the real great are those who achieve greatness by hard work, by using their mind for creative positive thinking or by serving the nation. One hardly knew that Mokshagundam Visveswaraya, born at Muddenhalli in Mysore State in the family of an ordinary Ayurveda Physician would one day be the pride not simply of the South but of the whole nation. He was not born great, nor was greatness thrust upon him. Born on September 15, 1861 he lost his father when he was only fourteen. He rose from strength to strength to be the sixth Bharat Ratna in 1955. He is one of the twenty six bright stars on the national horizon, rather one of the six dazzling suns who received the highest national award not for being political figures but for devoting their lives to the constructive works-the pillars on which the nation stands.
The bright chap graduated from Central College, Bangalore staying with his uncle but meeting his expenses through tuitions. He was so bright that the Principal would ask him to teach Mathematics to the students in the class. With all this labour, walking 15 kilometers a day Visveswaraya secured distinction in his degree examination that secured him a scholarship from the Mysore State government to join Science College, Pune. Topping the list of successful candidates in Civil engineering he joined Mumbai Public Works Department in 1884 as assistant engineer. He decided to work honestly to improve the standard of living of the people. Visveswaraya completed some challenging projects as a Civil Engineer. Undertaking two well known projects of supplying drinking water to Sukkur in Sindh and Aden in South Yemen from dirty beds of Indus and sandy channels he earned the title of Kaiser-e-Hind from the British Government. He showed his ingenuity in building automatic sluice gates at the Khadakvasla dam and in bringing relief to poor peasants by building a number of canals and dams. As he was not promoted to the post of Chief Engineer, a post reserved for Britishers, he resigned in 1908.
As Chief Engineer of Mysore State he completed the Kannambadi or the Krishna raja Sagar dam in Mysore city, harnessing the waters of Kaveri River. It was the biggest dam in India completed in 1932. It stores 48,000 cubic feet of water and generates 60,000 Kw. of electricity. None, who visits Mysore, can forget the beautiful Vrindavan gardens and its musical fountain through which runs a rivulet from the dam to meet the river again.
He became Dewan (Prime Minister) of Mysore State in 1912. He worked with great dedication and gave push to democratic trends in the state. Public opinion was given importance. Not caring even for the British Resident he gave full freedom to the Press. At 58 he resigned. But by 1918 he had already gifted a number of organizations and projects to the State including Bank of Mysore, Malnad Improvement Scheme, Mysore University and plans for Bhadrawathi Iron Works and power station at Jog.
The latter achievements of the ex-Dewan were efforts for Hindustan Aircraft Plant in Bangalore and Vizag shipyard. But he played the role of a constructive advisor to the government of India. The old man lived for his ideals and worked to the last moment of his life. His idea was to ‘work out than rust out’. M. S. Aney paid a tribute to the great soul – ‘Duty before comfort is the ideal of Visveswaraya. His quest for knowledge, his great patriotism, his attitude to work, his love for the poor and his secret of good health would inspire the coming generations for ever’.