N.R. THIAGARAJAN (RAVILLA) (1913 - 1969)
NRT was a freedom fighter, architect of development of Madurai, Parliamentarian, builder of the Congress Party and Man Friday of Sri. Kamaraj.
He was born on 16th April 1913, as the fourth child of Rathnasamy Naidu and Venkatammal in Karisalpatti Village. He had his education in his native village and he was drawn to national movement at a very young age. He was the key organizer of civil disobedience movement and quit India movement in the Madurai district. He was imprisoned many times and spent about 51/4 years in Vellore, Alipuram and Tirunelveli prisons. He launched movements for boycott of foreign goods and promotion of swadeshi goods.
At the young age of fourteen N.R. Thiagarajan joined in National movement and Congress Party. He started his political carrier as the president of the village Congress Committee of his native village Lakshmipuram Pudupatty. Latter he became Taluk Congress Committee secretary of Periyakulam. In 1946 he became the president of Madurai District Congress Committee president. NRT was the key person of all the political activities of Madurai. He was a very powerful orator and he could inspire thousands of youths in freedom movement and Congress party. He was responsible for building Congress from the Grassroots in Madurai District.
He had close association with Periyar. He organized Temple entry of Harijan in many Temples of Periyakulam Taluk. NRT was a great social reformer and worked for the emancipation of Dalith and women. Sri. P. Kakan a great freedom fighter and minister from the Dalit Community was a close friend and Associate of N.R.T.
After India’s independence he was elected as the first President of the prestigious Madurai District board in 1949. He was the president from 1949 to 1954. Madurai District was one of the biggest districts of Tamilnadu consisting of present Madurai, Theni and Dindugul Districts. During this period he could develop a five year plan for the development of Madurai District. His focus was on primary education, primary health, rural housing, linkage roads to rural areas, drinking water supply, irrigation works for agricultural development and industrial development. He laid the foundation for the industrialization of Madurai. Then chief ministers of Tamilnadu Rajaji, Kamaraj and Kumarasami Raja gave whole hearted support for his efforts to develop Madurai region.
As the president of the District he gave importance to education. He had a vision to start schools colleges and an university in Madurai District. As the District Board President he could start about 500 primary schools and 32 high schools in remote areas of Madurai District. The first Rural Arts and Science College in a remote village of southern TamilNadu was started in Uthamapalayam because of his tireless efforts in 1956. He started about 16 primary health centers and maternity centers in Madurai District.
Because of his initiatives industrial estates were started in Madurai, Theni, Dindugul and Palani. Theni, his native town had very positive features for textile industry and cotton cultivation. Because of his efforts, an irrigation scheme was implemented to irrigate above 12000 acres of dry land with Vaigai river water in Theni region. It helped the farmers to cultivate cotton in large areas. He invited Sri Jawaharlal Nehru to inaugurate the first textile mill in Theni in the year 1962. Because of NRTs efforts now the region has emerged as one of the textile hubs of south India.
As the District Board President immediately after independence he took extraordinary efforts to provide transport facilities to the villages of Madurai district. N.R.Thiagarajan was a great parliamentarian. He served in the Assembly and Council of Madras Legislature. He was known for his oratory skills in the legislature. He was the leader of the Congress Party in the Legislative Council of TamilNadu Assembly between 1964 to 1969. He was the opposition party leader in the Legislative Council, when DMK came to power from 1967 to 1969. He was an active member of the Madras Assembly between 1957 to 1962. He asked the highest number of questions in the assembly and made assembly sessions very productive. He was responsible for the establishment of university in Madurai and he actively worked for the selection of the site for the university and its inauguration. The governor of TamilNadu nominated him as a member of the first senate of Madurai University.
As the District Board President, he had a vision to build a dam in the vaigai river to develop agriculture in the dry regions of Madurai District. He impressed Kamaraj on the benefits of constructing a dam in Vaigai river in Madurai District. About 40000 Acres have got irrigation facilities from the Vaigai dam. In 1950’s there were no medical college in the state outside Chennai. As the president of the District Board he sent a proposal for starting a Government Medical College in Madurai and he allotted the District Board land to the construction of Madurai Medical College. Now the Madurai Medical College has been upgraded in to an all India institute serving around 12 Districts of south Tamilnadu.
He had a close and special relationship with Sri. K. Kamaraj. Like Kamaraj, NRT was also started as a humble grass root worker. NRT was the right hand of Kamaraj in politics and he could translate the ideas of Kamaraj in to reality. NRT was the member of the TamilNadu Congress Working Committee for more than twenty years. As the president of District Panchayat he regularly visited hundreds of village panchayats and closely studied their issues and problems. Local Body leaders of Madurai District elected him to Legislative council of Madras as their representative in 1964.
NRT was a great Gandhian and he was actively involved in Gandhian movement. He was the President of Madurai District Bhoodhan Movement and helped Acharya Vinobha to collect 4,000 acres of land for Bhoodham. He personally participated in the Pathayathra of Vinobha. He also donated his personal land for bhoodhan.
NRT tirelessly worked for the people and the nation upto his last day. He died in the year 1969 at the young age of 56. He is still remember for his contribution for the development of Madurai, Dindugul and Theni Districts. Government of Tamilnadu honoured him by naming the district hospital in Theni as N.R.Thiagarajan Memorial District Hospital.