Monday, July 1, 1996

The Greatest Diwan

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 15

The Greatest Diwan
by Narendra Luther

Sir Salar Jung always was correct in his dealings with the child Nizam. He never sat in his presence unless asked to do so and tried his best to inculcate royal virtues in him.

When Mahboob was just about four Nawab Fakhr-ul-mulk gave him a gift of a watch. Mahboob was excited about it. However, Salar Jung not only made the boy return the gift, he also fined Fakhr-ul-mulk ten thousand rupees for his insolence in giving a gift to the ruler. Salar Jung said the ruler only gives, he should not be taught to take. To drive home the point, Salar Jung imported 250 watches with the amount of the fine and made Mahboob gave them away as gifts.

Another incident occurred when the young ruler was about 17 and was yet to be installed formally. Mahboob along with the diwan and his two sons, Kishen Pershad and the English tutor, Captain Clerk, was proceeding by horse-carriages to Aurangabad. Having crossed a stream, the party rested for a while. Salar Jung told the party to finish their lunch quickly sot that they could reach Aurangabad by the evening as planned. Mahboob suddenly decided that he would halt there for the day and would proceed to Aurangabad the next day. Salar Jung and Captain Clerk agreed that Mehboob should be advised that the programmes had been notified to the public. Many people would be waiting at Aurangabad to receive him and so the programme should not be changed. "Punctuality is a royal virtue," Salar Jung told Clerk to advise the callow youth.

Mahboob brushed aside the advice. Clerk then spoke a little firmly and told him they were his (Nizam's) own orders and that he himself should not violate them.

At this rebuke the young ward flared up. With tears in his eyes he said : "You and the diwan are always pushing me. I shall not go. Let me see what you can do." Saying this he stomped into his tent.

When Salar Jung heard this, he was silent for a while and then sighed : "May God take me away before his rule starts." Everyone was stunned by these remarks.

Sharp at 12.00 noon, Mahboob came out of his tent and sent a message to the diwan and his party that they should come and have lunch with him.

On arrival, Salar Jung made a bow and apologized for his insolence in making the suggestions contrary to his master's wishes.

Mahboob smiled, placed his hands on the bowed head of his diwan and said : "No. On the contrary, I am sorry. I acted impulsively." Then he took out his jewelled watch and presented it to Salar Jung.

His Reforms :

When Salar Jung became diwan in 1853, the State was practically bankrupt and without any law and order. The Arabs, the Rohillas, and the Sikh Mercenary armed bands terrorized people.

Salar Jung started by reducing his own salary from Rs. 25000 to Rs. 15000 a month. After that he ordered similar cut across the board for all employees. In exchange he offered regular monthly payment of salaries. This bargain was accepted by employees because hitherto salaries were not paid for years together. This made the employees indebted to unscrupulous money-lenders. The state also owed money to sahukaars. He had their claims closely scrutinized and offered to pay off them the reduced amounts.

Hitherto, the office of the revenue collectors, were auctioned and given to the highest bidder. Even after somebody had been appointed, another person with a higher bid could still be appointed. The joke used to be that the collectors appointed to take charge of their district used to ride their horse with their face towards the tail of the horse - to see who was following them ! Salar Jung made the appointments regular and permanent.

He divided the state into districts and grouped them into five divisions. He also created five ministries with a secretariat and 44 departments down to the level of districts. He brought educated and trained persons from British India on the advice of Sir Sayyad Ahmed Khan to fill new jobs.

The post and telegraph, and the railways were introduced in the state during his time.
Salar Jung also established courts and made the judiciary virtually independent.

He established the Madarsa-e-Aliya for the education of the children of nobles and set up a number of schools all over the state.

During the Mutiny of 1857 Salar Jung sided with the British and helped them crush the uprising against them. It was that which saved the British power in India and they acknowledged it by knighting him.

The city at that time was walled and had 14 gates. Salar Jung himself could not go out of the city without the permission of the Nizam. The street leading to the palace of the Nizam was filthy and the stench of urine was so strong that it was called the Mutri Gali (the Urine Street). Salar Jung wanted to have the sanitation improved and to metal the city streets. But his detractors filled the ears of the Nizam and told him that Salar Jung wanted to do these things in order to make it easy for the British to enter the city !

His Death :

The thought of his death seemed always to be present in Salar Jung's mind. Whenever he went on a longish trip, he always carried with him the paraphernalia required for his funeral.

However, he died at home. Sir Salar was interested in astrology and rummal. He had some retainers who were competent in these. One of them Pandit Mohan Lal, he had an appointment to meet the diwan on the evening of 8th February, 1883. After finishing his work for the day the diwan summoned him and asked him to draw his horoscope at that time. The astrologer forecast prosperity and success. The prime minister examined the horoscope, smiled and then asked the expert teasingly : "But Panditji, the house meant for life is empty." The astrologer tried to explain away the matter and after a while was allowed to depart.

He then came running to Server-ul-Mulk, the young Nizam's tutor and his godfather, woke him up and told him the whole story and said that he hoped his horoscope was wrongly cast.
That very night Sir Salar Jung passed away !

Inspite of all the obstacles and hindrances faced by him and the intrigues against him, Salar Jung administered the state for 30 long years and during that period introduced service far-reaching reforms. He converted a medieval oligarchy into a modern administration. Doubtless, he was the greatest Diwan that Hyderabad ever had.

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