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Father of co-operative movement

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T.A. Ramalingam Chettiar.
T.A. Ramalingam Chettiar.

G.Satyamurty

Chettiar’s major contributions include a TB sanatorium at Perundurai

Coimbatore: An eminent lawyer, Tirupur A.Ramalingam Chettiar was the only one who was elected unopposed on the Congress ticket from South India in the first elections to the Lok Sabha in 1951.

Being a student of economics, he is known for his dedication to the Co-operative Movement and historian C.R.Elangovan considers him the Father of co-operative movement.

The co-operative revolution he had triggered in Coimbatore region had spread all over the Madras Presidency. He was instrumental in the birth of the Central Co-operative Bank, Urban Bank, Land Development Bank, co-operative milk union and co-operative printing press in Coimbatore. He headed many of them for quite some time.

He also established and stewarded a co-operative training institute and the Ramalingam Co-operative Training Institute is functioning even now in Saibaba Colony. He was also a member of the Commission set up in 1928 to study the co-operative banks and he identified ways and means to reduce the loan burden on the farming community.

He had a major role even in the establishment of State-level co-operative bodies.

Born in 1881 in a business family, he shifted to Coimbatore to have English education, graduated from Presidency College, Madras, and took his Law Degree from Madras Law College.

He had a lucrative practice in Coimbatore between 1905 and 1936.

In 1919, he became the chairman of the Coimbatore municipality and in 1921 the President of the District Board.

He played a crucial role in resolving the crisis involving the century-old London Mission School in 1934. Besides, he headed the executive committee of the school till his demise in 1952.

He was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1921. Except a term of two years, he continued to be the member of the Assembly till 1939.

Understanding the travails faced by agriculturists, he was instrumental in getting a law for waiving the farm loans enacted as early as 1938.

When the country became independent, he became a member of the Constituent Assembly. His major contributions include a TB sanatorium at Perundurai (following the havoc played by plague in Coimbatore region in the early 20th century) and a ghat road for Tirupathi temple.

A very interesting facet of Chettiar was his love for Tamil when even high school students were forced to speak only in English.

Though he did graduate from the Presidency College wherein only those good in English were admitted, he chose to study Tamil literature and also grammar during the same period.

He developed such a literary capacity that he chose to write an explanatory note (urai) for Patthuppattu (Sangam literature) which had a very old “urai” that could not be understood by the recent generations.

(Source: “Coimbatore- oru varalaru” by C.R.Elangovan and “Kongu Kulamanigal” by Pulavar Kuzhandhai)

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