If one has to list some of the most influential engineers from the history of contemporary India, Sir M Visvesvaraya would undoubtedly be on the top of the list. It is a popular misconception that Sir M Vishweshwaraiah was instrumental in developing only Karnataka (erstwhile Mysore State). His engineering works & contribution towards nation-building was spread across the nation throughout his career spanning over 30 years as engineer, 20 years as administrator & 20 years as adviser & statesman.
Some of the most inspirational qualities & anecdotes of Sir MV:
Right from the very first day of his service, Sir MV had demonstrated his flair towards engineering & nation building. In 1884, he graduated from Poona College of Engineering with flying colors. In fact, he stood first in the University Examinations, and as was the norm for toppers those days, he was directly recruited (without any interview) by Govt of Bombay and appointed as Assistant Engineer in Public Works Department. The following excerpt is the very first paragraph from his autobiography “Memories of my working life”. (All excerpts in this article are from the same book)
Within a decade, he had gained reputation as the most able engineer who could be entrusted with even the most complex problems. By the mid 1890s, he was popular not only among Govt & Engineers circle but among the masses as well. In 1895, the Govt had published articles in leading newspapers praising Sir MV for his dedication and admired him for his challenging work at Sukkur (which was a part of undivided India before independence).
His zeal to dive deep into the root of any given problem and come up with innovative & reusable solutions, was higly commendable and appreciated not only by his supervisors but by the Govt as well. For example, to solve the problem of reservoir overflow, he designed automatic sluice gates which was later reused for Lake Fife and the same design was reused for Tigra Dam & KRS Dam as well. He even went on to patent this design which entitled him to a recurring income in the form of royalty, which he humbly refused so that the money could instead be used by the Govt for further developmental works.
Over the next 10 years (between 1895 & 1905), Sir MV worked at different parts of India including
- Hyderabad where he remodelled the entire city & improved its drainage system,
- Bombay where he introduced block system of irrigation & water weir flood gates,
- Bihar & Orissa where he was involved in building railway bridges & water supply schemes
- Mysore where he supervised the construction of KRS dam which was Asia’s biggest dam when it was built.
By the end of the first decade of 20th century, with more than 25 years of engineering experience, Sir MV was an accomplished engineer with international repute, and had begun to receive offers from organizations around the world to work on bigger challenges.
That was when the development oriented Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar, without further delay, personally met Sir MV and convinced him to lend his service to Mysore State. He was even offered the Dewan (Prime Minister) post in 1908 and given complete responsibility of all the development projects.
More about the Maharaja & his rule:
Under the Dewanship of Sir MV & the glorious rule of Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar, Mysore witnessed its Golden period and underwent major positive transformation in terms of Agriculture (transforming Mandya into Sugar city), Irrigation (KRS dam), Industrialization (Mysore Soap factory, Bhadravati Iron & Steel factory, Mysore lamps, Mysore chemicals, Mysore paints), Education (Mysore University), Banking (State Bank of Mysore), Commerce (Mysore Chamber of Commerce), aviation (HAL) and more.
Mahatma Gandhi never missed an opportunity to praise the administration of Mysore in general & engineering feats of Sir MV in particular.
Even after retirement from engineering & administrative services, Sir MV was involved in several national committees & advisory bodies where he repeatedly emphasized over the role of engineering & technology in national development. The Govt of India conferred him with the nation’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, in recognition of his dedication & contributions towards engineering.
Sir MV had dedicated his life towards nation building and he epitomized all the qualities of an ideal engineer throughout this life. Hence it is but natural for India to honor him by celebrating his birthday as Engineers’ Day.
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