Tanjore Ramachandra Rao
Mr T. Ramachandra Rao will be remembered as the first Indian to be appointed as Deputy Commissioner of Police in the City of Madras. He came of a Bijapur Desastha family which had settled down for a time in Mysore. Tanjore however claims to be the place of his birth (1825).
Of the events of his earlier life not much is known. Ramachandra Rao’s parents were poor, but through his natural intelligence he picked up a good knowledge of English and came to Madras about the year 1840 in search of employment. Major Crisp, Marathi Translator to Government, took him in hand as quite a lad, trained him in calculation and composition and employed him as his private writer between August 1840 and March 1841, When Crisp became Ag. Astronomer to the Hon’ble Company, he recommended Ramachandra Rao to the Superintendent of the Observatory as “his quickness and intelligence were his most dependable aids in the arrangement and preparation of details”. He was attached to the Observatory up to Dec. 1843. In Jan. 1844 he joined the Military Fund Office as Accountant and writer with a view to better his prospects.
In Oct. 1847, he left this office to take service as Minute Writer under the Superintendent of Police on a salary of Rs. 21. His scholarship in Tamil, Telugu, Hindustani, Canarese and Marathi soon gained for him rapid promotions till in 1854 he was appointed Interpreter to the Chief Magistrate on a salary of Rs. 150. Mr. E.F. Elliot, Chief Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, certified him to be “an excellent Accountant and altogether a thorough man of business” and added that “to my knowledge he has never acted except as an honourable man”.
Ramachandraq Rao’s application to the Supreme Court for the post of Canarese Translator was backed up by his superiors. John Bruce Norton, then clerk of the Crown, was much impressed with his ability in this capacity and described him as “an efficient public servant, well worthy of promotion and employment in a higher range of service”.
During the time of Mr. Boulderson, Ramachandra Rao was made Deputy Commissioner of Police. In the year 1860 Sir Charles Trevelyan, Governor of Madras, complimented Mr. Boulderson on the able assistance of his deputies to reduce Military Guards by the substitution of Police, a measure of great practical importance. As a detective Officer, Ramachandra Rao’s abilities came into prominence in connection with a case of burglary at Adyar, in the Dindigal Robbery case, and the Great Note Forgery case (1875). He won public appreciation in a serious case of fire which broke out in Washermenpet, as his personal exertions prevented extensive damage. The judgement and energy displayed by him also availed to prevent a mob rising and looting of the retail grain bazaars in Triplicane (1866).
But his chief work, apart from his strictly official duties related to the management of the Poor House known as the Monegar Choultry. There was a large scale embezzlement of funds in the institution and Ramachandra Rao was deputed to examine its affairs. After taking suitable action, he remained in charge of the Poor House for several years during the Famine period and by careful administration, the funds of the charity were economized.
In 1875 when King Edward VII visited India as Prince of Wales, some of the arrangements were entrusted to Ramachandra Rao. In appreciation of his loyal services over a fairly long period, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales presented him with a gold Albert Chain as a Souvenir with his own hand. Mention of his services is made by Mr. W.H. Russel, the Official Recorder of the Prince of Wales tour. A passage occurring in this book is quoted below as it throws a side light on certain aspects of Ramachandra Rao’s life about which little mention is made in other places :-
“Next there was a display of jugglery. The performers were directed by Ramachandra Rao, Commissioner of Police, one of the most clever and intelligent officials in the Service of the State, and at the same time one of the most thorough – going Brahmins in India. He gave us an exposition of Hindu doctrine one morning, remarkable for clearness and refinement, in which he grappled, if not boldly, at least most ingeniously and delicately with the abstruse questions”.
Ramachandra Rao’s duties were so varied that he came into contact with a number of people with whom he moved on terms of warm and intimate friendship. His assistance was sought by persons in different stations of life, and in spite of his strict disciplinarian habits, he acquired great personal popularity.
Towards the end of 1878 his health began to fail. He was asked to avoid over-work and to take rest. About the middle of 1879 he passed away at the age of 54.
Ramachandra Rao had a special attachment to students. A large number of them were fed by him every day and among those who partook of his hospitality many have come up to good positions in later life – a remarkable testimony to the judicious manner in which Ramachandra Rao distributed charity and patronage.