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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Indian Budget - the Finance Minister who first presented and ..... more

Lot has changed … things keep changing and only change is permanent.   Indian Budget used to be a great day in annual calendar….. the common man would queue up in petrol bunks filling up their mopeds [which had capacity around 3 litres] – hedging against petrol hike [remember those were the days when petrol hike would come only  in the budget speech; in the early 1990s everyone of us working in Insurance Companies listened to budget speech with rapt attention – for there were expectations of Insurance industry getting opened up… which did happen eventually much later….. further the FM would dwell at length on raising the IT limits – these would capture much space – would actually result in a couple of thousands of savings for salary earners in a higher bracket………. While a silent reference on cut in Excise duty on some specific item would result in profit in crore for some industrialists…... TVs would show the Finance Minister walking to the Parliament in the evening with a leather briefcase [yes for ages budget was presented in the evening – a colonial practice, till Yashwant Sinha changed it]….. a typical Quiz Q – Who presented free India’s first Budget ?

There is lurking doubt on whether the proposed or promised plans really materialize to benefit the citizens ??  Chennaites have heard PC and others speak on desalination plant for Chennai -  Years ago, as it was with  the surface and groundwater options either running dry or proving highly undependable, Chennai also looked towards the sea.  In 2008, the residents reacted with joy to the announcement of  allocation of  Rs 300 crore by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in his  budget for a mega sea water desalination project near Chennai under public-private partnership.  A few months back, water packaging industry went on strike when their plants were checked by authorities – the result – water in city costs more. 

On Nov. 26th 1947, RK Shanmukham Chetty, India’s first Finance Minister presented the first budget.  It covered only 7 and half months from Aug 15th the day of Independence to March 31, 1948.  Though New Delhi could have authorized the expenditure for the part of the financial year, a budget was indeed presented in the Parliament and approved.   Understand that the Budget Estimate for total revenues was Rs 171.15 crore; of which notably, Rs 15.9 crore was to come from the Posts and Telegraphs Department. It was to be a deficit budget of 26.24 crores.  The first budget of the Republic of India was presented by John Mathai on Feb 28, 1950.   This budget laid down the roadmap for the creation of the Planning Commission. The Commission was entrusted with the responsibility of formulating phased plans for effective and balanced use of resources. 

In 1987, the budget was presented by Rajiv Gandhi.  A decade later, P Chidambaram launched the Voluntary disclosure of Income scheme to bring out black money !

Now this report in TOI of date makes a sad reading…………………. Here it is reproduced :

At first glance, 81-year-oldJagadheesh could pass off as just another senior citizen battling loneliness at a private home for the elderly in the city. But a few minutes of conversation will convince one there is more than what meets the eye. Primary among them was an illustrious lineage. Grandson of the country's first finance minister R K Shanmukham Chetty, all Jagadheesh now owns are sepia-tinted memories of a sunny past.

The bachelor, who once lived in a 14-bedroom house in Coimbatore, now shares a hall in a Kilpauk home for the elderly with 22 others. "I have seen both extremes of a human being — poorest and richest. But I don't have regrets," says Jagadheesh, now known as Paul Jagadheesh after he converted to Christianity.  Jagadheesh says his family was traditionally wealthy. "My father operated four outlets of Burmah Shell, now known as Bharat Petroleum, in Coimbatore, owned Shanmuga Theatres and financed movies."

So, how did a family member of the man who presented independent India's first budget end up in a home for the elderly? "I am to blame. After joining college in 1933, I became a regular drinker and remained so for 50 years. I frittered away Rs 40 lakh of assets, including properties in Chennai, Ooty and Coimbatore, for imported alcohol and cigarettes," he says, wiping his spectacles.
His friends left after his wealth vanished. He was found unconscious in a Kilpauk park on August 3, 1998 by a family friend and taken to the old age home where he says he has finally found peace. "I gave up drinking and smoking 15 years ago. I don't ask my relatives to visit me or send money."

R K Shanmukham Chetty resolved the 'sterling crisis,' managing to get a huge amount from the then British administrators. He also served as the Diwan of Cochin. Says Jagadheesh: "My grandfather had a lot of determination. Nehru made him finance minister even though he was in the Justice Party."  He remains optimistic though the country is going through a financial crisis. "I believe our Prime Minister and finance minister can overcome this crisis as they are experts. Inflation doesn't mean the country is in crisis. It is a sign of the country's growth as a superpower as now even daily wage workers are earning more than Rs 500 a day," says Jagadheesh, closing the gate of the private home.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27th Aug 2013.

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