|Sir. Seshayya Sastri,architect of Pudukotta, India. www.thehindu.com|
|1913 map of the Madras Presidency withf Pudukkottai State./en.wikipedia.org|
During the British rule when higher positions in the government such as court judges, collectors and Dewans etc were later thrown open to well educated Indian natives, they took up the responsible jobs and did their given duties with extreme care and dedication. In those days of power struggle within the royal families of Princely states, who had an alliance with the British rulers, the job of Dewanship was a tough one. In the princely states, if the ruler was inefficient or the legal heir to the throne was a minor, the British rulers would appoint a Dewan-Regent to run the administration till the ruler was able to take care of his state on his own. Persons with excellent credentials in the areas of civil administration, covering bureaucracy, justice, revenue, agriculture departments, etc were chosen for such coveted positions. Personally for the Dewans, it was challenging assignment akin to tightrope walking including slack rope walking, using discretionary power and commonsense as the balancing tool.
Sir Amaravati Seshayya Sastri KCSI (22 March 1828 – 29 October 1903), also known as Seshayya Sastri was an Indian Administrator of repute who efficiently served the British government in various capacities and won their appreciation and admiration.
|Thondaiman King/ iruler of Pdukkottai 1858.en.wikipedia.org|
By dint of hard work, dedication and commitment, Mr. Sastri who started out as a clerk in a revenue office, later became Tahsildar, Naib Sheristadar, Deputy collector(of Tanjore) and later, Head Sheristadar. Thus starting at the bottom of the rung, Mr. Sastri slowly and surely climbed every rung in the ladder and finally rose to the position of Dewan of Travancore and served from 1872 to 1877 in the middle of an uncomfortable situation prevailing in the royal palace. He could not brook the conspiracies and intrigues going on in the palace, as such things were common in many royal families, and he left the job.
While serving the Madras Legislative council, in 1878, he took up the Dewanship of Pudukotta, the only princely state of Tamil Nadu then, During his tenure there 1828-1904) he put in extra efforts to improve the state which was financially and administration wise in a mess. The ruler - Raja Ramachandra Tondaiman (7th in line) had heavy debts up to his neck to be cleared due to mismanagement. The British took away the royal honor of ''salute state'' and his title 'His Highness.' The British rulers thought Mr. Sastri was the right person to save the state from the predicament. Initially he served as Sirkele (1878- 1886) and later became Dewan-Regent (1886-94). He introduced several reforms that saw overall improvements in many fields in that state. The following are worth mentioning:
01. The complete renovation of famous and Pudukkulam and Pallavankulam tanks in Pudukkottai was the brain child of Mr. Sastri. Giving priority to famine and relief work (the state comprised mostly of rain-fed agriculture lands), he de-silted, drained and cleared of slush in the above tanks, He thus saved the protected water supply to the town. He also introduced chemical treatment of tanks to get rid of worm problems to take care of health hazards.
02. The ruler renovated numerous Hindu temples on the Dewan's advice.
03. Smallpox was a dreaded infection in those days. Scores of people died without proper treatment at the right time. As a preventive measure, he introduced vaccination programs among the natives..
04. As part of reorganization of judicial system, he was instrumental in the establishment of the chief court.
05. Importance was given to education for children; a girl's school in 1883, up gradation of an English school to second grade college, an Arabic school for the local Muslim community were started at his initiative.
06. Development of Pudukotta was given priority. It is a well planned town with parallel roads and streets intersecting at right angle. Easy accessibility to copious supply of drinking water for the town from nearby tanks.
07. Sashiah Sastri took steps to have a survey conducted for linking Pudukotta town and Thiruchirapalli town by rail link. Subsequently based on this survey, a railway line was opened in 1928.
08. Surface road transportation saw improvements with the strengthening of trunk roads connecting adjacent district towns and districts.
09. In the area of management of jails, Mr. Sastri introduced training in skilled work for the prisoners, so that when they got out of the jail, they could survive, using the skill learned there. A way to cut down criminal activities.
10. There was marked improvement in the quality of town life through introduction of town extension, better sanitary conditions, tank renovation, better buildings for hospital and and educational institutions.
Upon Ramachandra Tondaiman' death in 1886, Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman, then a minor, succeeded to the throne of Pudukkotta. Seshayya Sastri, continued his Dewanship and ruled Pudukkottai as Regent till Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman attained the eligible age to rule the state on his own. He retired from Dewanship in 1894 and returned to private life.
Honors: Seshayya Sastri was made a fellow of the University of Madras in 1868 and on 1st January, 1878, made a Companion of the Order of the Star of India in the New Year Honour's List. In 1901, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India in the King's Birthday Honour's List.
Mr. Sastri tirelessly worked hard during his tenure as the Dewan of Pudukotta and through his efforts, foresight and proper planning, he turned what was once a dilapidated town and financially ruined state into a prosperous place and a treasury with surplus funds. Meticulousness and execution of given duty with near perfection were his hallmark. Mr. Sastri died on 29 October 1903.