Tagore the zamindar

Rathi 1

In 1906, he sent his 18-year old son Rathindranath Tagore (Rathi, as the poet used to call him affectionately) along with another young man named Santosh Majumder to study agriculture and animal husbandry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His intention was to have them acquire scientific knowledge to help solve the problem of persistent food shortage in India. This was a remarkable decision on the part of a rich landlord like Tagore. In those days it was far more common for the sons of affluent families to travel abroad (typically England) to study law or prepare for civil service by completing the ICS (Indian Civil Service) examinations. Tagore was a philanthropist and he had deviated from the common practice. His act of philanthropy is further obvious from a letter he wrote his son and his friend while they were studying in the the United States:

‘…Remember, a landlord’s money is the money of the farmers and these farmers have borne the cost of your education by eating half their meal or by not eating at all. It is upon you to pay their debts in full. This will be your primary responsibility more than your own material welfare.’

Rathi

Rathi graduated from the University of Illinois and returned home after three years to “serve the people of Patishar” as the poet had wanted. By all accounts, Tagore’s scheme of rural development and the Krishi Bank were functional until about the 1920s.

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