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|PM's speech on releasing Kamaraj commemorative coins|
October 27, 2004
"It is a proud privilege to speak in honour of one of the greatest sons of our country, Bharat Ratna Shri K. Kamaraj. As a political leader, he stands out as an example for all those in public life today- a leader completely dedicated to the cause of the people, a model of rectitude and correctness, far-sighted visionary and an exceptionally able administrator. It is not without reason that today several years after his demise he is still a legend hailed and venerated as 'karmaveera'.
Bharat Ratna Shri K. Kamaraj belonged to that select breed of freedom fighters who walked the Gandhian path and contributed magnificently to making the freedom movement a truly mass movement in the country. When he was about fifteen, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was a turning point in his life. He was barely eighteen when he heeded Gandhiji's call for non-cooperation against the British and took it to the villages. The great freedom fighter Shri Satyamurthy was his mentor and his political guru. Shri Kamaraj participated in all the Gandhian non-violent mass struggles in the three decades before Independence and spent a good part of his in life various jails. He was an indefatigable political worker and a skilful organizer.
Shri Kamaraj first reluctantly accepted the office of the Chief Minister of erstwhile Madras State in 1954and in his tenure of nine years made his mark as an exceptionally able, pragmatic and effective administrator. His administration was based on the simple advice he gave his ministers, "Face theproblem. Don't evade it. Find a solution, however small. People will be satisfied if you do something".
Sound advice that holds good even today for those of us in Government and public administration. What he himself was deprived of as a child was the first focus of his attention - education. The aim was to open primary schools in all villages. Free education upto Class XI was introduced. The mid-day meal scheme was introduced for the first time in our country and it is the forerunner of the scheme which is now attempted to be implemented throughout the country. This is one of the examples of his tremendous foresight and vision.
He also focused on irrigation and building infrastructure in the State. A number of medium and small scale industries were also set up with the able assistance of Shri Venkataraman who fortunately is present with us. His efforts in this direction have meant that Tamil Nadu today is one of the States with the least regional disparities in the country.
After being elected as Chief Minister three times consecutively, in 1963, Shri Kamaraj noticing the declining vigour in the Congress party resigned as Chief Minister and decided to take up party work. He advocated the "Kamaraj Plan" for all senior Congress leaders to resign from their posts and devote their energy to the re-vitalization of the party. This became a model for sacrifice and service in our public life, abjuring the lure of power - an ideal that has now been rediscovered and re-established in the personality of our Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi.
In 1964, he was elected the President of the IndianNational Congress, a post he held through the turbulent years guiding the country in the days following the death of the two illustrious Prime Ministers. The nation honoured him with the Bharat Ratna in 1976. But Shri Kamaraj is a person whose memory needs to be recalled again and again and the release of this commemorative coin is a very timely event. It is an appropriate occasion to recall what Shri Kamaraj stood for. Simplicity and humility characterized him. He was not rich and did not grow rich. He spoke, walked, ate and dressed the way the common people did. He overcame his initial handicap of the lack of formal education to acquire felicity in English and knowledge of both national and world affairs. He was correctly described as "a common man's man with an uncommon common sense".
Rising from an humble background, he was an embodiment of simplicity, honesty, courage and compassion for the poor - qualities which endeared him to the masses who reciprocated with their affection for the 'Perunthalaivar' - a great leader. The release of commemorative coins in honour of this great son of India is a humble tribute of this Government to his memory. I am sure it will gladden the hearts of millions of his admirers and followers. The real tribute to him however, would be for all his followers to follow the values he espoused in their conduct in public life."