Rājakārya-prasakta Dewan Bahadur Sir M N Krishna Rao - part 3

During the early days when Krishna Rao became the Dewan, the British Resident wrote him a letter informing about his visit to see the Dewan and sought a suitable time. 
Krishna Rao, in response, wrote “I am happy that you desire to see me. Salutations. I am at my office every day from eleven to five.” His conduct with people was appropriate; an apt response, behaving in a manner that was natural and never crossing bounds. That was Krishna Rao’s way.

Disposing Petitions

This was true even when people came with petitions. As soon as the clerk informed him about someone or a group of people having come to meet him, he would say: “Bring them in.” He would stand up to welcome them. Sitting down after they were seated, he would ask: “What is the matter?” The leader [of the congregation] would say, “Sir, we have come from Hoskote. We have been requesting repairs to the lake for a long time…” Immediately Krishna Rao would summon his clerk.
“Muthukumaraswami, send for the Chief Engineer and fetch those files.”
The Chief Engineer would come with the file within ten minutes. Krishna Rao would ask the Chief Engineer: “These people have come from Hoskote. What is the status of their lake’s repair?” The Chief Engineer would give some explanation. Krishna Rao would ask: “When is the last letter in your file dated?”
The engineer’s face would betray signs of embarrassment.
Krishna Rao said, “Alright. When will the work start? Are there any impediments?”
“There is some delay from the Finance Department,” said the Chief Engineer.
“Fine. I will look at that note and make a decision. Anything else?”
“I will get the work started within a month.”
“Fine. You see, people are facing difficulties.”
The Chief Engineer would depart. Krishna Rao would turn to the visitors and say, “The work will start in a month. If it doesn’t happen, please write to me.”
The visitors would begin, “Sir, it has become very difficult. There is no water to drink for people and animals…” Krishna Rao would say: “All that is known. Is it not? Is there anything else?” Even before the visitors’ reply, Krishna Rao’s revolving chair would turn towards his table. There was no scope for any more conversation.
M N Krishna Rao was not a man for small talk. He would not waste time saying the same things and listening to the same things again and again.

Dependence on Citizens

Some of the petitioners to M N Krishna Rao would suggest: “The government can possibly do this, probably do that.” On such occasions, Krishna Rao would repeatedly say the following: “It is true that from one point of view, the government is all powerful and all independent. But there is another perspective. That too is extremely important. From that point of view, there is no organization weaker than the government. There is nothing that is more dependent on others. There is a government only if people make it work; where will it be if people are away from it? The government is dependent on people.”
In this way, Krishna Rao had brought harmony between the administration’s arrogance and the affection it should show to the citizens.

Fiscal Policy

In matters of treasury management, Krishna Rao’s principles and morals were strict. While he was Superintendent of the Government Treasury, he and Sir M Visvesvaraya clashed several times. The disagreement was intense on issues such as reserves, deficit budget, audit of expenditure, and means of expenditure control. Hence, the pace of Visvesvaraya’s programs would be impeded.
In one instance, Visvesvaraya wrote: “We have to now raise loans for developmental projects. These projects will be beneficial in the future. Is this not for the government?”
On this, Krishna Rao made notes:

1. “It may be beneficial or it may not; will the State not suffer then?”
2. “The benefits that accrue after fifty or hundred years will be for people in the future. To create wealth for the future generations, is it right to place the burden on people living now?”

In fact, I have read many such markings in the same tone by Lakshminarasimha Rao and more so by S Shamanna.
Although there were such differences of opinion between M N Krishna Rao and Visvesvaraya it never came in the way of mutual courtesy and respect. Until the end, Krishna Rao was extolling in many ways Visvesvaraya’s selflessness, integrity, and enthusiasm for the nation’s well-being. I have heard Krishna Rao say: “Visvesvaraya is a great man, fit to be maharṣi.”
In summary, Krishna Rao’s desire was that financial administration has to run with care and rigour so that the State’s expenditure was minimized. He never let it slacken.

Altered Perspective

A difference could be noticed after he moved up to the title of Councillor from Financial Secretary. He had to then assume responsibility for managing the factory at Bhadravati. One day, the head of accounts Sri — came to Krishna Rao.
Krishna Rao said, “You have raised several objections!”
Sri — replied, “All these objections are based on the objections you had raised earlier.”
Krishna Rao smiled and said, “The situation has changed. Earlier I used to look after only the financial responsibility. That was the view of just one department. Now I have to look after the welfare of the factory. In this, views of several departments have to be integrated. Now, my perspective is of the whole State. The salt merchant has to say there is no substance in the world that can equal salt. But the cook has to consider salt, sugar, and spice.”

Restoration of Iron and Steel Factory

It can be said that M N Krishna Rao was the one who saved the Bhadravati factory [Mysore Iron and Steel Works]. During its loss-making days, the state of the factory had gone so bad that it was being considered if the factory had to be shut down. Some had opined that unless steel is produced and steel products are produced, it would not become profitable. A committee was constituted to get to the bottom of this and make recommendations. The committee recommended that steel must be manufactured and that rolling mill and machinery expansion has to take place. There were some conditions for the government to accept this. The minister Mathan was not supportive.
In this manner, after it became a controversial topic, Mirza saheb gave Krishna Rao the responsibility to resolve it. Krishna Rao called for a meeting of all people connected to the issue. Sir Charles Todhunter also attended the meeting. He was in opposition then. He came up with a lot of hurdles. Krishna Rao said, “Presently, Bhadravati may appear to be making a loss. But we should not forget that it is a national industry, a people-oriented enterprise. None of us aspire for war. But due to some misfortune, if war were to break out in Europe, then it is the Bhadravati factory that will become the means of saving the British Empire. In the future, one will realize that the present loss is negligible and the profit at that time of crisis is a hundred times this loss.”
These strong words from Krishna Rao were effective. It is a feather in the cap for Krishna Rao that the Bhadravati factory’s administration was viewed with compassion and strengthened.

This is the third part of the four-part English translation of Chapter 12 of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Dewanaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar and Raghavendra G S.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Prof. Vedavyas M G is a visiting professor of Strategy and International Business at PES University, Bangalore. He is on the Advisory Board of Atria Institute of Technology. Before moving to academics, Prof. Vedavyas was Senior Vice-President at Mahindra Satyam, responsible for its global telecom business. Earlier he was the Regional Manager for Tata Consultancy Services at Birmingham. Prof. Vedavyas is a graduate of IISc., Bangalore (BE in E&C) and IIM, Bangalore (MBA). He has an abiding interest in everything Kannada.

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