Bharat Ratna Sir M. Visvesvaraya (15 Sep 1860- 14 April, 1962) was one of India's finest sons. The breadth of his achievements mark him out as the Leonardo Da Vinci of India.
He was a Civil Engineer par excellence. He devised innovative techniques that were well ahead of his time. Among them,
- The Block System of Irrigation – to optimize, control and evenly distribute water supply to agricultural lands over many villages. The supply was rotated within “blocks” in each village to curtail misuse and water-logging. This system, devised in 1899, is still used in Deccan Canals.
- The "collector well” in Sukkur in Sindh province (Pakistan). The area was hot and arid, and they had to pump water from River Sndhu to a hill nearby, filter it and supply water to the town through pipes.They did not have enough money for filters. Visveswaraya solved this ingeniously by digging wells in the river bed itself close to the river bank to obtain spring water through percolation. Thus filtering was achieved without installing filters. To increase supply of water, a tunnel was driven from the bottom of the well under the flowing river. This is now standard civil engineering textbook content under the Heading, “Collector Wells”.
- He designed and patented Automated Floodgates, which permit flood water to enter a reservoir without water level exceeding full reservoir level, thereby reducing risk of submerging surrounding land. The gates are automatic because they open and close at the rise and fall of water in the reservoir for flood control. He designed water supply schemes for many towns in Bombay Presidency, Hyderabad and later as Chief Engineer of Mysore State.
He differed with Mahatma Gandhi whose view essentially was “Industrialize and Perish”, while Sir MV's motto was the opposite, “Industrialize or Perish”, but great men that they both were, both respected each others' views and capabilities.
Sir MV led a very simple life. He was known for his honesty and integrity. In 1912, Maharaja of Mysore appointed Visvesvaraya as his Dewan.
Before accepting the position of Dewan of Mysore, he invited all his relatives for dinner. He told them very clearly that he would accept the prestigious office on the condition that none of them would approach him for favours.
When on tour on official business, Sir MV carried a set of candles bought with his personal money, and used them for personal work like reading etc in the night after he was finished with official work.
Just think – this man lived a life of total personal integrity that we cannot even imagine today. It has taken another simple person like Anna Hazare to raise our collective anger against corruption. Across the political spectrum are ranged small minds who do not want to see corruption rooted out of this great country. They do not realise that because of their selfish interests, India is held back from fulfilling its rightful role in the world by the “hand-brake” called corruption. It is time to release the hand-brake and surge forward..