Excerpt from Diwan of Travancore

20 December 2016

Chapter: Impressive Ttenure in Baroda
The affairs of Baroda were at this time in a state of frightful confusion. ''It was a phantasmagoria of rapine and treachery, a confusing dream of intrigue and bloodshed, where reckless aspirants for ephemeral power were continually engaged in internal contests, unredeemed by any ennobling principle, and usually to all appearance motiveless; except so far as motives are supplied by lust of plunder and venal self-aggrandizement. It required an iron hand and an iron will to restore order in the midst of this confusion. The iron will was Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row's and the iron hand that of Sir Philip Sandys Melville, Resident.'' Therefore, during his Diwanship captain French was the leader of the state in the true sense. He held issues like building roads, abolishing juvenile infanticide, opposing child trafficking and commencing railway operation for the benefit of the public, in high regard. His disciplinarian attitude ensured that the work went on a satisfactory pace.

Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan  
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan  

Vadodra had functioned as per Malharrao's diktat. Coffers were empty. The state was in debt. The money lenders were pestering for their money. Officials were busy in hoarding for personal gain. The list of royal jewellery made was missing. Malharrao did not care for public grievances. The officials befriended Malharrao and considered Jamnabhai and Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row as outsiders. When Sayajirao was selected over local descendants, they subtly objected the move. They were against discipline. Things deteriorated to such as extent that Sir Richard Meade observed, ''There is no possibility of improvement in Vadodara's administration and the state has become useless.'' However, Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row stood firm to the task. Diwan Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row and the governor general of the British army successfully removed the anarchy born during the rue of Malharrao. The efficiency levels, the calibre and skill of the man from the south was commendable. Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row performed the duty for fourteen years. Based on his prior experience, he handled the state administration very well and turned it into one of the finest institutions. Prior to this, the supreme government had decided to appreciate his work and in 1873 had sent him to the anarchy-ridden Indore state.

Tricksters and conniving officials soon understood that they shall not be able to prosper in Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row's regime. They raised obstacles in his work. Some officials even charged Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row of being irresponsible. However, Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row paid no heed to them; his mature ideas overshadowed these machinations and intrigues. He persuaded the government to expel those officials who could not work according to the new system of administration. Competent and reliable officials were appointed. While the government was busy training the village-grown prince into a pro-English king, Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row was cleaning the local administrative system.

The territory of Vadodara spread out in Gujarat was unevenly distributed. There were disputes regarding the boundary territories. Public grievances never stopped. The vaghers of Okha and Mewasi, Bhils of Bahadarpur in Sankheda were infamous for violating laws of the land. The Thakurs of Amreli would consider themselves as rulers and disregard the government's laws and policies. There was a problem of providing good healthcare services, drinking water, fighting cholera and other diseases. Good governance was no less than a walk over fire. Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row had two alternatives. Either live a selfish life for personal gains like the former ruler or face the brickbats sitting atop the stressful administrative position. A normal man would choose the first path, but he chose a group of reliable friends and tried to revive the administration. Madhava Row was undoubtedly confident and efficient. The previous Diwan Dadabhai Naoroji too had launched many innovative and good projects but he was pestered by the Resident at every stage. This Parsi gentleman, soft by nature could not show a characteristic firmness in tackling the problem and was soon frustrated and decided to leave the post.  Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row showed maturity in appreciating Dadabhai's good projects and began enforcing them in day-to-day activities.

Sir Thanjavir Row brought discipline to work. He established decorum in interstate relations celebrating royal anniversaries, festivals or exchanging gifts in the Durbar. By hook or by crook he implemented his ideas to improve the economic condition of the state. He opened the Huzoor court for efficient administration. His ten point legal formulae was a significant step. He was committed to efficiently coordinate matters pertaining to law, education, governance, health, and finance and court procedures. He considered the administrative and constructive agendas for the state's progress. He appreciated the capability of Jamnabai and involved her in the state's machinery. Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row conducted the smallest work with discipline and gave no exception to this. He committed both himself and Jamnabai to observe the rules. He entrusted her with internal matters of the state. She acknowledged the appropriate distribution of income and understood the need to emphasize on observing rules despite the fact that it implied less power to the monarch.

Unlike Dadabhai, Sir Thanjavur Madhva Row had less interference from the Resident but he could not do whatever he wished. Albeit, with an intention to relieve extra pressure on Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row, the Resident continued to supervise the work and establish control of sovereign government. Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row understood that going to the young age of the ruler, the entire burden of work was on the Diwan. The Diwan was not in a position to use his powers as Diwan to its full because as a Diwant-regent his role and powers underwent a slight shift. This in a way proved beneficial to the British government.

Therefore, there was no problem in functioning according to the will of the government. Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row used his experience to make use of the dos and donts given to a Diwan under British rule. He knew that the assistance committee to the Diwan was a mouthpiece of the Resident. Therefore, he knew that many a time the decisions would not benefit the public but as a young prince was on the throne and it was a regency that was functioning, he could do nothing.

The first major intervention by the new Diwan Sir T Madhava Row was to revamp the revenue administration in the state. The revenues of the state were allotted to certain bodies called Sirdars for a fixed number of years, who in their turn farmed them to certain Sowcars. These Sowcars, with the aid of armed forces, lost no opportunity whatever of enriching themselves at the expense of the people. Rich and poor were alike ground to death with impunity. Plunder and oppression were the rule everywhere. Having received a consideration from the Sirdars, the Government could not with any show of justice resume the right of collecting the revenue. Sir Thanjavur Mdhava Row, therefore by special acts of state, compelled the Sirdars to sell their rights. The Sirdars, who had the Maratha blood running in their veins, would not so easily submit to a new regime. Astute lawyers quoted law and precedent, and spoke of appealing to the secretary of state for redress. However, Sir Thanjaviur Madhava Row pursed his course undaunted. By dint of entreaty, intimidation and deportation of troublesome people, he succeeded in restoring order.

(See interview: In quest of a legendary Diwan's legacy to three princely states)

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