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R.K.Shanmugam Chettiar

     R.K.Shanmugam Chettiar was an Indian lawyer, economist and politician who served as independent India's first finance minister from 1947 to 1949. He also served as President of India's Central Legislative Assembly from 1933 to 1935 and Diwan of Cochin kingdom from 1935 to 1941.

     Shanmugam Chettiar was born to Kandasamy Chetty-Sri Rangammal, on 17 October 1892 in Coimbatore. The family was running many business and owned a number of mills in Coimbatore city.

     Shanmugam Chettiar had his schooling at Coimbatore. He studied economics at Madras Christian College and graduated in law from Madras Law College. But, he did not join the bar, Instead, he took care of the family business and after sometime, entered politics.

     Shanmugam Chettiar joined the Justice Party and became a Councillor in the Coimbatore municipality in 1917. Soon afterwards, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the Coimbatore Municipality. In 1920, He participated in the Madras Presidency legislative council elections and was elected to the Madras Legislative Council. He served as a member of the Madras Legislative Council from 1920 to 1922. He represented Indian employers at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in 1928, 1929 and 1932.

     He joined the Swaraj Party and was, in 1924, elected to the Central Legislative Assembly, the newly inaugurated lower house of the Imperial Legislative Council of India. In 1932, Shanmugam Chetty was made Deputy-President of the Central Legislative Assembly and in 1934, made President, in succession to Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola. He served as President till 1935, when he had to quit his membership of the Central legislative Assembly after losing the 1935 elections.

     Shanmugam Chettiar served as Diwan of Cochin from 1935 to 1941. He introduced schemes for the improvement of Cochin port. He also tried to do away with Hindu religious superstitions and introduce Periyar's schemes. In 1938, He visited Geneva as the Indian delegate to the League of Nations. He was also India's delegate to the World Monetary Conference at Bretton Woods in 1944. He also served as President of the Indian Tariff Board. Due to his pro-British views, he was not included in the Constituent Assembly.

     Due to his expertise in economics, Shanmugam Chettiar was chosen by the Father of the Nation, Mahathma Gandhi, against the wishes of Jawaharlal Nehru, to be the Finance Minister in Independent (1947-1949) India's first cabinet. He presented the first budget of independent India on 26 November 1947. He returned to state politics and was re-elected to the Madras state legislative assembly in the 1952 elections as an independent candidate.

     Shanmugam Chettiar was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire on 3 June 1933. He was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the Annamalai University. Shanmugam Chettiar succumbed to a severe heart-attack on the evening of 5 May 1953.

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