Dr Padmanabhan Palpu (1836-1950), a much-revered physician and social reformer from Kerala, was almost denied an schooling and vocation due to the circumstances of his beginning.
Born into the Ezhava neighborhood, which lies close to the underside of the Indian caste system, the one avenues open to him have been the “conventional occupations” of toddy tapping and farming. Unwilling to succumb to the present social order within the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (Kerala), nonetheless, he sought to be a health care provider exterior his residence province.
Dr Palpu wouldn’t solely play a pivotal position in successfully containing the 1898-99 plague in Bangalore (identified at this time as Bengaluru) and establishing the well-known Victoria Hospital within the metropolis, but additionally standing alongside social reformer Sree Narayana Guru and Malayalee poet Kumaran Asan as pioneers of the battle towards the pernicious caste system in Travancore.
They based an organisation known as Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, which later grew to become the beacon for a lot of social reformation actions in Kerala. It was a exceptional life devoted to serving the sick, uplifting his neighborhood and difficult the caste system.
Overcoming the obstacles of caste system
Born to Bhagavathy Padmanabhan and Matha Perumal at Pettah, Trivandrum on 2 November 1863, Palpu earned his matriculation in 1883. Regardless of rating second within the all-Travancore medical entrance take a look at, his utility to medical faculty was rejected due to his caste.
“In these days, the upper castes shunned the decrease castes as a result of they believed that contact or strategy and even sight of the latter inside a sure distance triggered air pollution to them. This state of affairs led to systemic and common endeavours to stop them from coming into roads, colleges, workplaces and different public locations,” wrote scholar TP Sanakarankutty Nair in a 1979 article printed within the Proceedings of the Indian Historical past Congress.
“At the same time as a scholar, Palpu was decided to eradicate these social evils, however Kerala society at the moment occurred to be an Augean secure. In 1885 Palpu joined Madras Medical Faculty and in 1889 he was awarded the Licentiate diploma in Medication and Surgical procedure (LMS),” added Nair.
Whereas his father struggled to make ends meet, his mom offered her jewelry to ship her son to Madras. Following his research, he utilized for a job in Travancore’s medical division, however was denied but once more due to his caste. As a substitute, he utilized for a job within the Madras medical service earlier than shifting to the extra progressive Mysore medical service in November 1891.
In reality, in response to this disturbing excerpt printed in Social Mobility in Kerala, “Visiting Travancore as a professional medical physician, he went to the place and pleaded to be permitted to return to his residence state and serve the Rajah. The Rajah’s response was (in some variations) to supply Palpu a patch of land with coconut bushes on it, and the promise that he might faucet todde from them tax-free. In different variations, the haughty Rajah first tells Palpu, ‘Sure, you may serve. Right here there’s loads of work so that you can do,’ earlier than having him taken exterior, proven the coconut bushes within the royal compound and advised, ‘There’s loads of bushes so that you can climb’.”
After gaining employment in Mysore province, he would spend the following 30 years in service until his retirement in 1920. All through this era, he held onto essential posts like “Well being officer, Bangalore, PA to sanitary commissioner, deputy commissioner, central jail superintendent, and many others,” famous Nair. “His tenure of workplace because the Mysore plague camp superintendent, even on the threat of his personal life, gained him appreciation from all quarters together with the Surgeon Basic and Sanitary Commissioner of the Authorities of India.”
For a short 12 months in 1917-18, he additionally labored as sanitary advisor to the Baroda Authorities. However together with his official duties in Mysore, Dr Palpu strove to vastly enhance the circumstances of the Ezhava neighborhood alongside different like-minded reformers.
Containing the plague
Dr Palpu started his tenure in service of Mysore province because the superintendent of the newly established Vaccine Institute in Bengaluru. Impressed by his work and capabilities, Palpu was given the duty of working St Martha’s Hospital and the Lunatic and Leper Asylums.
When the plague struck Bengaluru in August 1898, he was appointed “superintendent of the plague camps within the metropolis”, in response to Meera Iyer, the writer of Discovering Bengaluru, in a column for the Deccan Herald.
Dr Paplu was accountable for working “segregation camps for contaminated folks, contact camps and well being camps for his or her kinfolk,” notes Iyer. In addition to his empathy, compassion and selflessness, what additionally stood out was his braveness. He stood tall within the face of catastrophe at the same time as different senior medical doctors withdrew from the scene fearing dying.
In line with Iyer, “Palpu’s duties took him on surveys of plague-affected areas the place he investigated dwelling circumstances. To attempt to limit the unfold of plague, he used to personally meet members of the family of contaminated folks to persuade them to take away themselves to contact camps. This was finished ‘with sympathetic and protracted recommendation’ and with ‘repeated preaching and persuasion,’ as he put it, which took numerous time, generally requiring visits over two or three days throughout which he would clarify the hazards of an infection to them and it normally labored.”
In 1899, because the plague started to subside, he was despatched by the Mysore authorities to Cambridge College, the place he studied bacteriology, serum remedy and tropical medication. Palpu would come again to India with a Diploma in Public Well being. Upon his return in 1900, Lt Col PH Benson, the then senior surgeon and sanitary commissioner within the Mysore administration, really helpful that he must be appointed as well being officer for Bengaluru metropolis.
Palpu served within the Mysore authorities till 1920. He additionally grew to become a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Well being and a member of the British Medical Affiliation.
Never-ending service to his trigger
Regardless of the calls for of his work in Mysore province, he by no means stopped working in the direction of the upliftment of the Ezhava and different downtrodden caste communities.
In line with Dr Ajay S Sekher, in an article printed within the Ahead Press, “[Dr Palpu] joined fingers with Barrister GP Pillai and TM Nair of the Justice Get together and collaborated within the first mass petition for illustration and inclusion of non-Brahman natives of Travancore in public companies, known as the Malayali Memorial in 1891. He supplied monetary help to the marketing campaign and was its third signatory. However the Malayali Memorial turned out to be a marketing campaign for Nair illustration. They acquired ample entry into the service and their radicalism ended there.”
“[However] The Avarnas, together with the Ezhavas, weren’t given any share in energy. Subsequently, Dr Palpu initiated a second memorial in Kerala for the illustration of his personal neighborhood in public companies, signed by greater than 13,000 main tax payers from the neighborhood, which grew to become the bedrock of democracy in Kerala known as the Ezhava Memorial in 1896,” he provides.
The Ezhava Memorial submitted to Diwan Shungara Soobbiyer of Travancore province primarily highlighted how Ezhavas in Travancore have been denied entry to authorities colleges and public sector jobs. “This mass petition to the regime by the outcastes of Kerala for the primary time in fashionable historical past is usually hailed because the Magna Carta of Kerala because it was the primary subaltern sociopolitical motion and mobilisation for illustration and inclusion in a contemporary democratic society in Kerala,” claims Dr Sekhar.
The 1896 memorial attracted numerous media consideration. To additional spotlight the caste downside, he even despatched barrister GP Pillai to the UK and succeeded in presenting the grievance of the Ezhavas within the British parliament. In 1900, one other petition was delivered to Lord Curzon, however none of those initiatives resulted in any rapid materials outcomes.
Dr Palpu would additionally go on to affiliate with radical social reformer Sree Narayana Guru on the recommendation of famed Indian saint Swami Vivekananda. In line with Dr Krishnakumar A, in an article printed within the Paideuma Journal of Analysis, “Swami Vivekananda suggested him to affiliate with some non secular particular person on this effort to struggle for the rights of the Ezhavas.”
Dr Palpu (as vice chairman) would set up the SNDP Yogam in 1903 with Narayana Guru at its helm, together with poet Kumaran Asan as secretary. The organisation was ostensibly began to information the social, instructional, financial and non secular development of the Ezhava neighborhood, however it could later go on to accommodate different ‘backward’ caste communities.
Quickly, branches of the SNDP Yogam started popping up throughout Kerala. “Below Palpu’s patronage, and energetic organising talents, Yogam grew to become a robust mass motion. His intention in organising the Yogam was by and huge social and political to struggle towards the ruling authority for the continual denial of civic and human rights,” notes Krishnakumar.
Nevertheless, through the years, divisions started to develop inside the Yogam and the unique founders have been pushed to the margins. In 1928, Narayana Guru criticised the organisation for not together with different low caste communities in Kerala. Within the following 12 months, Palpu too criticised the organisation he helped set up by accusing it of catering to sure vested pursuits. He ultimately handed away in 1950, however not earlier than abandoning an indelible impression on future generations.
As we speak, Kerala has a chief minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) from the Ezhava neighborhood. Greater than a 100 years in the past, the very considered having an individual from such a neighborhood working the very best political workplace within the state would have been shut down.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
Dr. Palpu—The Pioneer of Ezhava Social Reformer of Kerala (1863-1950) by TP Sanakarankutty Nair, Revealed in Proceedings of the Indian Historical past Congress, Vol. 40 (1979)
Dr Palpu: The Pioneer of Ezhava Social Reformer by Dr Krishnakumar A, Revealed courtesy Paideuma Journal of Analysis
Palpu: A physician, activist who fought the plague and the caste system by Meera Iyer; Revealed on 23 August 2020 courtesy Deccan Herald
Dr Palpu – who countered plague and caste alike by Dr. Ajay S Sekher, Revealed on 8 December 2020 courtesy Ahead Press