Remembering Rao Bahadur Ari Gowder on his 127th birth Anniversary (4th Dec)
Son of late Rao Bahadur H.J.Bellie Gowder, the then leader of the hill tribes of the Nilgiris, born on 4-12-1893 was the first graduate from the Badaga Community (Madras Christian College). He was the elected member of the Madras Legislative from 1924 to 1957 except for a break in one period.
As the Senior most District Scout Commissioner of Boy Scouts among the delegates he lead the All India Scouters Contingent of Scout Masters of District Commissioners to the World Jumboree of Scouts at Godillo, Hungary in 1933.
He travelled extensively in Europe, including Russia, Turkey and the Balkans etc. He toured around the world visiting U.S.A, Japan, China, Indo-China (Vietnam), Malaya and Burma.
After travelling widely in India too, he started the Madras Provincial Backward Classes League and continued to be its President foe a number of years with a view to make it an All India Organisation, which it indeed become later under the leadership of a Minister of State in Delhi.
As a member of the Tea Licensing Committee, Tea Market Expansion Board, Calcutta, (Imperial) Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Delhi, President of Land Mortgage Bank, he encouraged cultivation of tea by the villagers, thus bringing into existence ‘Small Tea Growers’ and their problems.
With tea, the cultivation of potatoes was also encouraged by forming in 1935, a Co-operative Marketing Society, which has been supplying manure at reasonable price and marketing the produce under favourable terms. He continued to be its President for over 30 years.
As the elected President of the District Board from 1930 for 17 years, he opened a number of additional schools, including High Schools, Village roads and provided water supplies, medical aid, sanitation etc.
With the advancement of education, he worked hard, culminating in the opening of an Arts College at Ooty.
Due to his tireless work in various capacities, it is said that the general standard of living in the Villages improved considerably.
For his services in the Second World War and social work to the society, he was awarded medals and the title of Rao Bahadur.
The road bridge connecting Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in Kakkanalla in Gudalur and the road in front of Mambalam Railway Station, Chennai, are named after Ari Gowder.
He was the Nakku Betta leader of the Badagas and it is said that ‘no dispute will go unsolved’ once it is brought to his knowledge. The Badaga Day, 15 May, is also celebrated as Ari Gowda day.