Diwan Bahadur R. Ramachandra Rao
Those who ever came into personal contact with Dewan Bahadur R Ramachandra Rao could scarcely have failed to notice his imperious personality, his sturdy character and his bold spirit of independence. He was one of those who proudly owned their Mahratta ancestry and cared little for the honours or titles their way. By sheer merit and force of character he rose to a commanding position in British Service; and even those who opposed his views could not doubt his sincerity of purpose.
Ramachandra Rao was born in an aristocratic family in 1871. He was first educated in Trivandrum but graduated from Presidency College, Madras. He entered the Statutory Civil Service in the year 1890 while yet in his teens. As Collector he served in several districts. There can be no two opinions as regards the high quality of his work; but his independent outlook often brought him into conflict with his superiors. R. Ramachandra Rao had an uncommon appreciation of the difficulties of the poor and had a passion to serve them. As their sympathetic protector, he saved them from the tyrannous exaction of petty officials. Once when Lord Havelock visited Kurnool as Governor, he refused to collect subscriptions for the occasion as famine conditions prevailed in the district and met the whole expenses from his own pocket.
During the years 1907-1910 he was Registrar of Co-operative Societies, R. Ramachandra Rao was one of the few who had a real understanding of the spirit of co-operation. His wide experience as a Revenue Officer had brought him into intimate touch with the conditions of the ryots and their special needs; and in his new position he put the knowledge to practical use. Liquidation of debt, the removal of illiteracy and reduction of the drink evil are some of the problems to which he gave special attention. His method was always to look years ahead instead of merely tinkering with the problems as they presented themselves for solution.
Of R. Ramachandra Rao’s broad-mindedness, a glimpse could be had from a perusal of his memo (as Secretary, Law Department) regarding the treatment of political prisoners. He was always fearless and outspoken.
At the time of his retirement (1926). Ramachandra Rao was Collector of Madras. Even while in service he had retained a continuous touch with mathematics, and Astronomy. He was among those who in the early stages discovered Mr. S Ramanujam’s genius and helped to bring him to public notice.
Ramachandra Rao was an ardent patriot. The whole of his retired life up to 1930 when he got attack of paralysis was devoted to the service of the country. His admirable organizing powers were fully brought into play in 1927 when he conducted the All-India Exhibition in connection with the Congress Sessions at Madras. Some of his best work was done at Salem. He worked there in close association with the Hon’ble Mr. C Rajagopalachariar and made a great part of it a “dry area”. Ramachandra Rao was a sincere advocate of Swadeshi and wore Khadi as his habitual dress.
Dewan Bahadur R. Ramachandra Rao was one of our most respected Presidents. He was often too busy to attend the M.E.F. Committee meetings, but when he did attend, his influence on the proceedings was irresistible.
For a period of five years after 1930, Ramachandra Rao was confined to his bed. He bore his sufferings with singular courage, but felt keenly his enforces separation from his work. In July 1936, he breathed his last at the age of 65. The whole Presidency mourned his loss.