Ad Here  
When SPIC spawned star managers... Scientist and leader of educational reforms A statue for RV, at last! M Subramaniam ‘Sai’ Srinivasan no more He was the greatest. If only he had fastened the seat-belt... He took Kone to great heights… Transport S Narayanan A welcome biography on a towering CA ‘Hero’ rides into the sunset Bal Thackeray Remembering I K Gujral… A versatile, humane and efficient administrator/litterateur Another Leo of real estate and education is no more This trendsetter is no more He elevated B&C to its best... Brilliant Saeed saab Honest civil servant Centurion ‘Leo’ rests in peace A honest bank executive... A multi-faceted leader rests in peace Master of strokes KB Sir for all... A versatile legend moves on Justice Iyer, 100 New team at the helm at TANSTIA He breathed transport development How to build a nation Music loses a maestro MSV – the King of Light Music The motor sportsman is no more A Gandhian breathes his last on Gandhi Jayanthi Fighter-pilot turned monk... The ‘Q’ factor cost him Cabinet Secretary’s post A multi faceted prince is no more... VV Goes... KP is no more The Hero of bicycles rests in peace Saeed Jaffrey Colour-Chem's colorful personality He contributed so much to the telecom revolution He took space science to such great heights! R Desikan – the crusader of consumer interests is gone Jeppiar calls it a day Question on Operation X Music Samrat!!! - TMS Missile Man takes flight India’s Master Builder… Samskrt loses a passionate exponent... The Rajha of Rajapalayam... Sivaraman, 100 The scientist-engineer who lucidly explained economics Deora – the best networked politician.... The honest Sardarji Remembering Chariji A genius civil servant fades Big ideas, not big words, are important... Cement, calcium carbide, shipping… TSN turned these and more into gold Father of German unification no more... Dada of drip irrigation... Flute falls silent Tribute: Dr. Krishnamoorthy Srinivas Endearing Aachi... Tribute – Ja Ra Su ‘Mandolin’ stops playing... Tribute - R K Baratan Tribute – Baldev Raj Dr M G K Menon
The ‘Q’ factor cost him Cabinet Secretary’s post
K V Ramanathan (KVR) was amongst a galaxy of administrators who strode like a colossus. Sadly, how quickly they are forgotten by society!

Tamil Nadu has produced several outstanding civil servants known for their brilliance, efficiency and integrity. In the years immediately following independence, several of these hailing from middle class families had brilliant academic records and emerged at the top in the IAS examinations. G Ramachandran, M G Balasubramanian, K V Ramanathan (KVR) are some of these who come to mind readily.

I remember KVR’s presence at the Economic Editors’ Conference in the 1970s in the session with the Minister of Fertilizers & Chemicals. They were days of momentous decisions and the dominance of lobbying by the Italian wheeler-dealer, Quattrocchi. The demand for fertilizer was increasing in the aftermath of robust growth in agriculture production. The important decision to construct the HBJ pipeline to transport gas from the Bombay High to the northern states to set up large capacity fertilizer, power and LPG fractionation plants based on natural gas were discussed.  KVR suggested scaling up the capacity of urea plants from the earlier 750 tonnes per day to 1500 tonnes per day, a Hanuman jump in those days.

It was also decided to standardise the technology, design and engineering for ammonia and urea plants for the new plants then contemplated. Several technical committees recommended CF Braun, USA as the most suited for collaboration. KVR as Secretary-Fertilizers, gave his preference in his submission to the government.

How he lost out to PK Kaul...

However, the power of Quattrocchi prevailed. Snamprogetti, which was way down in ranking, got the contract even without having the requisite know-how for ammonia-based urea production on its own. Sadly, it also caused KVR the post of Cabinet Secretary, which should have routinely come to him. Even 24 hours before the announcement, senior civil service officials got the impression that KVR had been selected as Cabinet Secretary. But powerful lobbying by another contestant and possibly KVR’s standing steadfast with the committee’s recommendation on CF Braun resulted in P K Kaul appointed as Cabinet Secretary. How sad, his brilliant son-in-law Jairam Ramesh, who wielded power with the Congress, came much later into his family as his son-in-law and on the Delhi scene!

After missing out as Cabinet Secretary, KVR was shoved into that pinjrapole for senior civil servants, Yojana Bhawan, as Secretary, Planning Commission. Thence he moved to Manila as Executive Director, Asian Development Bank.

Brilliance right from childhood...

On every account, KVR had been known for his brilliance. Son of the famous and brilliant lawyer K Venkatsubramania Iyer, his brilliance was evident from the very young age. Another brilliant civil servant, SVS Raghavan, recounted: “while KVR was studying at the fourth standard in the elementary school, his teacher spotted him as being way ahead of his class and promoted him to the seventh standard! KVR maintained his rank at the top, right up to SSLC but then he was under-age for admission to the college! Father Murphy, a famous icon of Loyola College of those days, permitted him to join the intermediate course with the condition to pursue the course for three years (against two)!” KVR scored brilliant again and pursued B.Sc (Honours) in Chemistry at the Presidency College. He joined the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for further studies. His high rank at the IAS exam decided his career as a civil servant. This friend ruefully remarked that had KVR pursued science, he could well have been a noble laureate.

The loss of science was a gain of civil service. KVR worked diligently as the Collector of Salem, special officer of Parambikulam-Aaliyar project, Director of Agriculture and Settlement Officer, Second Secretary to Tamil Nadu government... before shifting to Delhi.

On his retirement, he served as the Resident Editor, Indian Express, Southern editions and later as the Editor of Sruti, a magazine for fine arts.

K P Geethakrishnan, former Finance Secretary, referred to the extremely helpful nature of KVR and his versatility and mastery over several subjects, notably music and cricket and to his elephantine memory.  

In his demise at the age of 86, the country lost one of the most brilliant civil servants.

The skewed value system of society is again in evidence. There is no news of KVR’s death in the media. The Hindu had space for a four column heading on the demise of film director K S Gopalakrishnan and a two column heading for author Kamala Laxman who passed away on the same day!

Author :
Reported On :
Sector :
Shoulder :
IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
Read more
Economist Communications Ltd is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected.
Read more
You agree that your use of this Website and the purchase of the magazine will be governed by these terms and conditions.
Read more
S-15, Industrial Estate,
Chennai - 600 032.
PHONE: +91 44 22501236