Born During: 1892
Born In: Tamil Nadu
Died On: May 5th, 1953
There are hardly any words that can help describe the greatness of R. K. Shanmukham Chetty. He was a visionary, economist, socialist, lawyer and an orator. He was preceded by Dr. Liaquat Ali Khan and was succeeded by John Mathai as the Finance Minister of India. R. K. Shanmukham Chetty was one of the few people who believed in constitutional means rather than confrontational means to secure freedom. Incidentally, he was regarded as one of the key freedom fighters in India's struggle for freedom against the British. He is credited with having solved the 'sterling crisis' which was a boon to the Indian Government. R.K. Shanmukham Chetty is best remembered for his political career and traditionalism along with being one of the top leaders of Coimbatore. The veteran politician died at the age of sixty-one, after receiving quite a number of awards.
Chetty was born in the year 1892 to orthodox, but affluent, parents of the Tamil Vania Chetty family. They were businessmen who owned mills in Coimbatore. Chetty had the opportunity of graduating from the famous Madras Christian College. At a young age, he displayed a multi-faceted personality because of which his father, Kandaswamy Chettiar, wanted him to join the Civil Services. Chetty's interests, however, lay elsewhere. He was keen on going to Madras to pursue his studies at the M.C.C. He managed to convince his grandfather, Ramaswamy Chettiar, to send him there.
He then went on to become the councilor and vice-chairman of the Coimbatore Municipality in 1917. During 1920-1921, he was a part of the Madras Legislative Assembly. This is where he learnt a lot about legislative activities.
As mentioned earlier, R. K. Shanmukham Chetty was instrumental in establishing the concept of self-rule and independence for India. He was against the idea of a violent and aggressive approach for freedom and instead, he used politics and constitutional means to achieve this end. He was appointed the Chief Whip of the Swarajya Party and also became a member of the Justice Party.
The year 1923 saw the induction of Chetty into the Central Legislative Assembly (CLA) where he was made the Deputy President. In the year 1929, he represented India in the International Labour Organization (ILO) conference that aimed at attaining social justice and human rights.
By 1931, he became the President of the CLA. Following the first stint, he served a second term from 1933-1934. During the years between 1931 and 1945, Chetty served as the Diwan of Cochin State. There was an all-round administrative progress and the 'Cochin Secretariat' was organized under his supervision.
In 1938, the High Court was opened and the Harbor Development Scheme was completed. In the same year, Chetty became an Indian delegate who represented the country in the Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva. In 1944, he attended the World Monetary Conference held at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States of America. He travelled all around the world in the name of economic, administrative and social reforms but never forgot his roots and continued to head the 'Tamilisai Sangham'.
In 1945, he was made the Constitutional Adviser to the Chamber of Princes and consequently became a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. The years 1947 and 1948 saw Chetty dealing with challenging tasks. This was when he became the first Union Finance Minister of India and presented independent India's first budget. Chetty, however, resigned a few years later because of differences with Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India.
The year 1951 saw Chetty becoming the Vice-Chancellor of Annamalai University where he studied agriculture and science. Here, he honoured a number of Tamil scholars. In 1952, he became a member of the Madras Legislative Council. He also happens to be the founder President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI) and even headed the Southern India Textile Research Association, Perur Tamil College and Southern India Mills Association. A great list of accomplishments, don't you think?
Apart from being a great economist, R.K. Shanmukham Chetty was also an eminent lawyer, industrialist, orator and an exemplary Tamil literary enthusiast. His contributions were a result of being a part of pre-independent India, understanding the problems of finance and dealing with the 'sterling issues' which saw India gaining back most of the wealth that it had lost to the British.
His biggest contribution to the country was framing the first Indian budget. His budgetary speech began with, "I rise to present the first Budget of a free and independent India. This occasion may well be considered a historic one and I count it a rare privilege that it has fallen to me to be the Finance Minister to present this Budget. While I am conscious of the honour that is implied in this position, I am even more conscious of the responsibilities that face the custodian of the finances of India at this critical juncture"
He died on May 5th, 1953 at the age of sixty-one due to reasons that, to this very day, remain mostly unknown.
1892: Born R. K. Shanmukham Chetty, in the state of Tamil Nadu.
1917: Made the Councilor and Vice Chairman of Coimbatore Municipality.
1920: Elected into the Madras Legislative Assembly.
1923: Inducted to the Central Legislative Assembly as Deputy President.
1929: Represents India in the International Labour Organization.
1931: Made the President of the Central Legislative Assembly and becomes the Diwan of Cochin.
1938: Represents India at the Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva.
1944: Becomes a part of the World Monetary Conference.
1945: Becomes the Constitutional Adviser to the Chamber of Princes.
1947: Frames the first Indian Budget.
1951: Appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Annamalai University.
1952: Made a member of the Madras Legislative Council and becomes the founder President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
1953: Dies at the age of 61.