Indomitable for a century

Hyderabad’s famous Reddy Hostel is the product of a casual conversation that took place during a royal wedding, writes Dennis Marcus Mathew

By Author  |  Published: 23rd Jun 2019  12:30 amUpdated: 22nd Jun 2019  4:44 pm

Seldom has a hostel triggered a social movement, one that saw several educational institutions, all for the downtrodden and deprived sections of the society, sprouting up across a State. But that is what the former Kotwal (Commissioner) of Hyderabad, Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy, did with the establishment of the Reddy Hostel a hundred years ago, in 1918.

The hostel, set up in Abids, was followed by a hostel for girls in 1933. Run on a no profit no loss basis, with most of the inmates being students from financially weak families and from the rural hinterlands of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, these hostels, even after almost hundred years, are counted among the best.

The RBVRR Model High School in Williamkonda of Mahabubnagar district, an MCA college and a MBA course on the Boys Hostel premises, a Vocational Training Institute in Ramchandrapuram of Mahabubnagar, which offers training programmes in tailoring, embroidery and motor vehicle driving to women and unemployed rural youth, freeships/half freeships and scholarships valued over Rs.30 lakh every year etc., are just a few of the offshoots of that social movement. The RBVRR Women’s College in Narayanguda is also a milestone in the movement.

The establishment of the Reddy Hostel itself was an interesting episode, described in detail in a book on the life of RBVRR authored by Suravaram Pratap Reddy in 1939 in Telugu, and translated into English in 1972 by Anand Rao Thota.

Retired police officer P Tirupathi Reddy, who has done extensive research on RBVRR’s life and has been on the Board of the Reddy Hostel for long, says it all began during a discussion on social issues, including a humanitarian approach to education, between a few Rajas and Zamindars with RBVRR during a royal wedding.

“Venkatrama Reddy made a proposal then and there, on an institution that would help students. The Wanaparthi Raja immediately agreed and said that if Reddy took up the responsibility and focus on the education of the rural population, funds would not be a problem. He also announced a donation of Rs.50,000, followed by Pingili Venkatrama Reddy with Rs.10,000,” says Tirupathi Reddy, adding that a society was registered, and soon, a high school and hostel began functioning.

Known initially as Reddy Boarding, the hostel soon became popular, with the fame spreading so wide that there were youngsters who walked more than 70km, all the way from Nalgonda, seeking admission in the hostel.

The school did not run for long and was closed down, with RBVRR then concentrating on the ‘Reddy Hostel’, which, right from the beginning, was not limited to any particular caste. Though it was named such, the tradition of keeping its door open to all, especially to those from financially weak backgrounds, is still maintained, says Tirupathi Reddy.

The hostel was unique, with a dispensary along with medical facilities offered to its inmates, and was the seat of many social activities of the day.

Figure of reformative movements

“What Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy has done here in Hyderabad remains unparalleled, even after so many years,” says P. Tirupathi Reddy, retired Assistant Superintendent of Police. For a Kotwal of Police to be remembered and praised so much, a century after he became the Kotwal, speaks of the magnitude of what RBVRR did in his time, Reddy says, pointing out that there are many who benefited directly from the humanitarian approach of RBVRR.

Like the young boy who once noticed a loose button on RBVRR’s gown, sewed it for him, and then was sent to John Burton’s shop in Hyderabad, arguably the best tailor of those days, and later to England, many others too had similar stories to narrate, of how RBVRR helped them make it big in life, says Reddy.

He was among the first to promote girls’ education, and education for the financially weak, which is why there are at least 22 educational institutions in Hyderabad that have RBVRR’s efforts behind them, says Reddy, adding that the man, more than being a non-controversial police officer, was more of a social activist, with the Reddy Hostel standing testimony to the reformative movement that he started.

Unparalleled service to education

In the times of an autocratic regime, he was a whiff of democratic air. Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy (RBVRR), the man behind the movement called Reddy Hostel that completed 100 years in 2018, was a police officer many in later generations of khaki wanted to emulate. In the words of Peddireddy Tirupathi Reddy, who retired as an Assistant Superintendent of Police in 2003 and has been an avid researcher on Venkatrama Reddy and policing in Hyderabad, RBVRR was ‘born for a cause’.

Born in a peasant family in Mahabubnagar district, RBVRR lost his mother when he was just two years old, while his father too passed away when he was eight. He was taken care of by his maternal uncle, Sai Reddy, also known as William Wahab, who became the district police chief, perhaps paving the path for RBVRR’s life in uniform.

RBVRR, who was elevated from the post of a Police Sub-inspector (Amin) to the Kotwal of Police (Commissioner of Police) Hyderabad, served as Kotwal for about 14 years during the Nizam’s regime. He tackled communal problems efficiently and maintained communal harmony among different religions and people from different linguistic backgrounds.

Apart from establishing several schools, colleges and hostels, RBVRR was president of the Krishna Devarayala Andhra Bhasha Nilayam. He was also entrusted with about 31 other responsibilities during the Nizam’s regime, ranging from Member of Legislature from 1934 to1940, Examiner of Municipal Judicial and revenue officers, Member of City Improvement Board and so on.

While the Nizam awarded him the title of Raja Bahadur, the British conferred him with the title of Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1931. The Telangana State Police Academy is named after him.

Boarders who went on to make it big

“The Reddy Hostel had a volleyball team of its own, and has donated many players to the national team, apart from winning tournaments on its own,” says P. Tirupathi Reddy. It has been the stepping stone to success for many, including internationally renowned artists like PT Reddy, while several of its former boarders have gone on to become famous, like former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and poet C. Narayan Reddy.

According to the website of the Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy Educational Society, former inmates also included luminaries like B. Satyanarayana Reddy, former Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, Dr. M. Chenna Reddy, former Governor of Tamil Nadu, Ravy Narayan Reddy, Prof G. Ram Reddy who was the chairman of UGC and Justice A. Seetharam Reddy, Justice Konda Madhava Reddy and also former ministers M. Satyanarayana Rao and Mahendranath, just to name a few.

More opportunities for underprivileged youth at the planned university 

The Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy Educational Society is contemplating to develop a deemed university in the land that was allotted by the State government at Budvel in 2017.

Courses that would generate more employment opportunities to the youth would be introduced in the upcoming university. Efforts were on to prepare a master plan and submit it to the government, according to Society in-charge president C. Vasundhara Reddy and secretary S. Chandra Reddy.

“We are taking into consideration the advice given by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao when he attended the ground-breaking ceremony for construction of a building complex of the society in Budvel,” said Chandra Reddy. Apart from 15 acres of land, a financial assistance of Rs.10 crore under special development fund for building the facility at Budvel was sanctioned by the government.

A detailed study was on to gather more information on job-oriented courses that were offered in other educational institutions in the country. An advisory committee that was constituted by the society suggested a few courses related to animation and advertising, hospitality, school of legal studies similar to NALSAR University and a micro and macroeconomics study school akin to Shriram College in New Delhi among other courses.

A committee was constituted with half a dozen former vice-chancellors and retired Heads of the Department to give their suggestions. From 1918, the Reddy Hostel has catered to the needs of students, most of them from financially backward families. Presently, as many as 500 boys and 400 girls are staying in the two hostels. The Society has also started an institute to offer MBA and MCA courses, Chandra Reddy said.

Explaining in detail about various activities, he said apart from instituting a gold medal and an award in the name of Raja Bahadur Venkata Rama Reddy, scholarships and a Rs.50,000 refundable travel grant to students going abroad for higher education was given. Free medical camps were organized for students every year.