Every year, 15th September is celebrated as Engineers’ Day in India (Sri lanka and Tanzania too), in honour of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, fondly known as Sir MV, whose contributions to public good have left an indelible mark in the history of India’s development, especially to Karnataka. His administrative acumen, attention to details, vision for all round development, unwavering dedication and above all transparency in public life have made his life and times a folklore to not only his engineering profession but also to all sections of society, from citizen to all those at the cutting edge of public administration. Here, I venture to record my impressions of how this proud son of Karnataka, refused to be constrained from the shackles of poverty of pre-independence India, to become an icon of public administration, shaping country’s development for all round development. His journey from a civil engineer to be a recipient of India’s highest honour, Bharata Ratna has a message for all, not just the engineering profession.
Sir MV’s earlier contributions were in his civil engineering field. After a successful tenure in PWD of Bombay Government, he was invited to join the Indian Irrigation Commission where he proved his mettle by devising innovative floodgates to raise the level of water storage in reservoirs (first in Pune). The same system was installed later in KRS dam, Mysore. Another feat in his early career was to implement a system to prevent sea erosion of Vishakapatnam port.
It was the then King of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, another visionary and the most benevolent among the Kings, who invited Sir MV to lead the development of the then Mysore Kingdom as Diwan. He accepted Sir MVs philosophy “ Without Industries India cannot Grow”. Results were spectacular as Sir MV established many institutions for development such as Mysore Soap Factory, Parasitoid Laboratory, Mysore Iron & Steel Works (now named after Visvesvaraya), Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic, State Bank of Mysore, Century Club, Mysore Chamber of Commerce (now FKCCI), University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE, Bangalore) and many other industries. KRS dam in Mysore stands as a testimony of his engineering skills, vision for development and above all an illustrious example for all professions as to how one can contribute to public good and national development from his/her chosen field of service. In this regard, Sir MV stands out as a true patriot and no less a nationalist than those who chose to serve India through struggle for independence. Sir MV chose to serve the country as a professional engineer to free India from poverty and take the initial but firm steps towards self reliance.
Addressing the association of engineers of Mysore (1910) he said that in the west, expenditure on education is considered a national investment and promptly followed it up with the establishment of University of Mysore, University of Agriculture, Bangalore and a Polytechnic in Bangalore.
Sir MV also espoused the cause of charity with a purpose of empowerment towards self-reliance rather than supporting individuals, as both the individual and nation grow together productively. Seeds charity were sown by him so early which the modern governments have reinvented in the form of PPP.
Apart from the above widely known facts, Sir MV was an icon of public values. It is widely known that before accepting the exalted position of Diwan of Mysore, he first obtained the concurrence of his family members not to seek any official favours from him.
Many inspirational values he has left for future generations are eternally relevant to guide the society: transparency, age, life long learning, value of time, payback to society with a sense of gratefulness, value of planning before execution to prevent wastage and equality.
I hold the view that Sir MV’s birthday should not be limited to Engineering profession alone. His life and times based on values in public life and vision to contribute to national development beyond one’s professional field are eternally relevant to all professions. They are the basic ingredients of growth even in 21st century and beyond, where the challenges of 4th industrial revolution based on knowledge activities hold the key to individual and national success.
PES University, as a tribute to Sir MV is offering a credit based course along with Mahathma Gandhi and Vivekananda.
I implore the Government to integrate Sir MV’s messages in curricula to inspire the youth and convince them about the huge opportunities to contribute to nation building in whatever profession they may choose.
Prof. M.R. Doreswamy
Chancellor, PES University, Bangalore & Former Adviser, Education Reforms, GoK.