Biography of R. K. Shanmukham Chetty
Sir R. K. Shanmukham Chetty (1892–1953) was an Indian economist. He became the first finance minister of India after it became independent in 1947.
R. K. Shanmukham Chetty Early life
Chetty graduated from the prestigious Madras Christian College. He belonged to Tamil Vania Chetty family who were traditional businessmen in Tamil Nadu that owned mills in Coimbatore.
R. K. Shanmukham Chetty Political Career
Chetty believed in constitutional means rather than confrontational means to secure self-rule and independence. He was the Chief Whip of the Swarajya Party for some time. He was also a member of the Justice Party for a brief while. He represented India at the 1929 ILO conference.
From 1923 to 1931, Chetty was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly. He held the positions of its Deputy President and President during 1931-33 and 1933-34 respectively. Chetty served as the Diwan of Cochin State from 1931 to 1945. His period of office was marked by all round administrative progress. The Cochin Secretariat was organised on modern lines under his supervision.
High Court was opened in 1938 and harbor development scheme was successfully completed. Chetty was also the Indian delegate to the Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva in 1938 and the World Monetary Conference at Bretton Woods in 1944. He was a Constitutional Adviser to the Chamber of Princes in 1945. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India.
Regarding India’s independence, he is reported to have said “… we have secured freedom from foreign yoke, mainly through the operation of world events, and partly through a unique act of enlightened self-abnegation on behalf of the erstwhile rulers of the country..
” Thus, though he did not hail from the mainstream movement for independence, he was made the first Finance Minister of Independent India and he presented its first budget. He resigned shortly. It is believed that he was asked to resign by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India due to a minor dereliction of duty by a subordinate official, so as to ensure probity.
John Mathai, India’s first railway minister, a former director of Tata Sons and the person who replaced Chetty as finance minister once said about Chetty that “he is more sinned against than sinning.” In 1952, Chetty became a member of the Madras Legislative Council.
R. K. Shanmukham Chetty was also the founder President of The Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Coimbatore.