CHINTAMAN DWARKANATH DESHMUKH was born on January 14, 1896 in Nata,
Kolaba District, Bombay. He was educated at Elphinstone College, Bombay, and took his B.A.
at Jesus College, Cambridge, winning the Frank Smart Prize in Botany in 1917 and
graduating with a Natural Science Tripos, Part I, in 1918. He stood first among the
candidates for the Open Competitive Examination and joined the Indian Civil Service in
Married in 1920 to Rosina Arthur Wilcox, he was widowed in 1949. Their one daughter,
Primrose, is residing in England. In 1953, he married Shrimati Durga Bai, a colleague
between 1950 and 1952 in Parliament and from 1952 on the Planning Commission. A prominent
public figure in her own right, Mrs. Deshmukh is at present Chairman of the Central Social
Shri DESHMUKH's daily regimen reflects his conviction that physical discipline is as
imperative as mental. The DESHMUKHs are early risers, customarily taking up their
important work at five in the morning. An expert gardener, he inspects the flowers,
well-mown lawns and food crops that flourish around his New Delhi residence before
breakfast. The remainder of each day is apportioned to work, recreation and study. Shri
DESHMUKH is widely traveled and versatile. Acquainted with seven languages, he enjoys the
study of philosophy, is a profound reader of English and French literature, and a learned
scholar of Sanskrit. His favorite sport is tennis. Despite the high positions he has held,
he maintains in his life a Spartan simplicity and has remained to old friends the same
good and gentle companion, enlivened by a shy and whimsical humor and something of the
eagerness of a schoolboy.
Shri DESHMUKH started his public career in 1920 as Assistant Commissioner in the
Central Provinces and Berar, became Undersecretary to Government in 1924, and a year later
was made Deputy Commissioner and Settlement Officer. His performance won him accreditation
as one of the two secretaries assisting the Secretary-General in the Second Round Table
Conference held in London in 1931. On his return to India, he was appointed Revenue
Secretary and in 1933 became Financial Secretary to the Central Provinces and Berar
Government. In 1939 he served briefly as Joint Secretary, Government of India, Department
of Education, Health and Lands, and as Officer of Special Duty, Finance Department and
Custodian of Enemy Property. Later in that year, he was posted as Secretary to the Central
Board of the Reserve Bank of India, within two years was promoted to Deputy Governor and
became Governor in 1943.
During his six years as Governor of the Reserve Bank, DESHMUKH introduced numerous
reforms in the Bank's procedures, developed the existing department of research and
statistics and instituted the practice of giving a complete picture of the country's
economy at the Bank's annual meeting. He was India's delegate to the World Monetary
Conference at Bretton Woods in 1944, and Governor for India on the International Monetary
Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, becoming, in 1950,
Chairman of the Joint Board of Governors of these two institutions.
From 1946, he has served as President of the Indian Statistical Institute of Calcutta
and, in 1950, was elected Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Public Schools
Society. He is Chairman of the National Book Trust of India and of the Statistical Quality
Control Advisory Committee, President of the All-India Federation of Horticultural
Societies and the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India, and President of the Board
of Trustees of the India International Center. Shri DESHMUKH also serves as an
office-bearer or member of the governing body of some 34 other public organizations
concerned with a wide range of subjects, including public administration, international
law, science, education, economics, cultural relations, research on Indian classics,
juvenile delinquency and soil conservation. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from
Allahabad, Annamalia, Calcutta, Mysore, Nagpur and Osmania Universities.
In recognition of his services as a member of the Indian Civil Service in the field of
public administration and finance, the King of England conferred upon Shri DESHMUKH the
title of G.I.E. in 1937 and knighted him in 1944. When the Government of India thought it
advisable to abolish the old titles, DESHMUKH was among the first to forego this
His career as financier and economist was crowned by his appointment, in June 1950, as
Union Minister of Finance of the Government of India. Holding this sensitive office at a
time when the tempo of development was being accelerated, Minister DESHMUKH eliminated
many procedural delays but, withstanding strong pressure, insisted on strict financial
controls. By virtue of his Cabinet post he was concurrently an ex officio member of
the Planning Commission where he contributed significantly to the evolution of India's
series of Five-Year Plans. In January 1952, he was elected to the Lok Sabha, or
House of the People, on the Congress ticket for the Kolaba District constituency in
As Finance Minister, DESHMUKH took prolonged tours between sessions of Parliament to
keep in close touch with popular opinion and address the public in the south and other
areas of India on current problems. "In" though not "of" politics, he
was said to be ill at ease amid the devious ways of politicians. He was at his best as a
parliamentary debater. At home with both letters and figures, he did not generalize or
theorize but was matter-of-fact and had a knack of replying to criticisms of his budgets
with orthodox arguments on finance and economy reinforced with quotations in Sanskrit
conveying the wisdom of ancient Indian philosophers. With his achievements in this office,
DESHMUKH came to be considered India's foremost financial expert and is generally conceded
to have been her ablest and most successful Finance Minister.
In 1956, Minister DESHMUKH was the first awardee of the Dadabhai Naoroji Memorial
Fellowship in the field of economics for his contribution to the advancement of economic
interests of the Indian Union during the five years ending December 3, 1955. In the
foreword to his published Memorial Lectures, entitled Economic Developments in India,
1946-1956; A Personal Retrospect, the Trustees characterized the lectures as
"worthy of a man who played a splendid and effective part in shaping the financial
policies of our country."
Differing with his colleagues in Government on the linguistic problem of Bombay, he
relinquished his Ministership in July 1956. "I have decided to resign on a particular
issue," he stated. "It is neither too tragic nor too heroic. It is just
satisfying one's conscience . . . When I differ from the Government on some matter of
principle, I feel I must resign." If the clause relating to Bombay city in the States
Reorganization Bill were not dropped, he added, he would vote against the measure in
Within a month after his resignation Shri DESHMUKH was called upon to accept the
position of Chairman of the University Grants Commission, then a relatively new organ of
the Government of India responsible for coordinating and maintaining standards of teaching
and education in universities throughout the country. He had opportunities to command a
high salary as a business executive and as a financial expert. He was also asked whether
he was willing to have his name considered for the Managing Directorship of the
International Monetary Fund. Instead, Shri DESHMUKH chose to serve his country in this far
less lucrative position with the same seriousness and dedication he had shown as Minister.
Although the post carries a salary of Rs.3,000 monthly, he preferred to accept appointment
at the nominal monthly payment of Rs.1. He resigned from Parliament effective from the day
he joined his new post as the first full-time Chairman of the University Grants Commission
with a six-year tenure of office.
Much in demand as a speaker at university convocations and educational conferences, his
pronouncements are marked with sober judgment and erudition, unmistakably evincing his
abiding interest in improving the economic and cultural levels of living of his people.
Over the last three years he has made numerous addresses urging higher standards,
deploring the decreased allotment to education in the Second Five-Year Plan, emphasizing
the importance of technological education. He has condemned "political pressure"
in admitting students of inferior caliber to engineering colleges and stressed the need
for cultivating and fostering managerial talent as essential to the economic development
of the country.
On the controversial subject of languages, he has favored linguistic states
"wherever possible" and argued that every group of people and region has its own
characteristic qualities and attitudes: "There is nothing anti-national or repugnant
to the ideal of secularism in seeking to preserve and develop these qualities."
Agreeing that Hindi can be the lingua franca, he feels the country must not lose
English. He has firmly maintained that development of mind would be impossible without
extensive and reinforced resort to the language which "opened the door for us to at
least two-thirds of the current scientific technological literature." "It would
be 'intellectual suicide,'" he said, "if one shuts one's eyes to the vast
knowledge treasured in the English language. Given a chance, he frankly admitted he would
like to use English "exclusively" for his own instruction to enable him to
participate in the intellectual life of the world. This knowledge, he explained, would
help him "transmit whatever (he) had assimilated through the proper idiom of the
Indian languages (he) knew, enriching those Indian languages in the process." In his
view a vital responsibility of Indian universities is the training of teachers in English
and insuring an adequate number of such teachers.
On the role of universities, addressing the 35th convocation of Delhi University in
1957, he said: "The ideological conflict that is in progress in the world today has
imposed on the universities of Asia, and particularly those of India, the special task of
preserving intellectual freedom and the search for truth without surrendering to dogma. If
the State was the instrument of the society's will, the university must be the mind and
conscience of the society. If the demands of the State and the society upon the university
contradict one another, the university must be able to stand by the society rather than
the State." Other special tasks he listed for Indian universities included
preservation of autonomy in academic matters, provision of new national leadership
required for developing the State as a moral community in which the worth of human
personality is recognized and respected, and examination of the problem of the class
struggle with a view to formulating a philosophy of social action to resolve class
conflict without sacrificing social justice or surrendering to methods which do violence
to human personality.
"Education in India," he emphasized at the 26th Annual Session of the
National Academy of Science in 1957, "must serve both the practical needs of a
resurgent nation and intellectual enquiry. It has been realized by many educationalists
and political leaders, including especially Mahatma Gandhi, that in a large country, the
majority of whose population live in rural conditions and depend upon agriculture for
their livelihood, education should not be too bookish and academic but should be related
to the living needs of the people."
In the Epilogue to his Memorial Lectures DESHMUKH expressed his political creed. In a
democracy, economists, administrators, politicians, technicians and others "are only
the agents, if not the instruments, of the people," he said. "All types of
governments influence and are, in turn, influenced by the wishes and opinions of the
people, but it is my conviction that both from the point of view of the governors and the
governed, there is no other way of managing the affairs of mankind except through
democracy, for it inculcates responsibility among the people and induces humility in those
who rule them. It is also a system where the people are most likely to get the standards
and scope of governance which they desire and deserve. Thus, both from its beneficent
effects on the evolution and education of national character and its close pragmatic
approximation to the expectations of the populace regarding the state, democracy is the
Deshmukh, C.D. Economic Developments in India, 1944-1956; a Personal Retrospect.
Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 1957.
______. In the Portals of Indian Universities; Convocations and Other Addresses. New
Delhi, University Grants Commission, 1959.
The Times of India Directory and Yearbook, 1957-1958.
Clippings from the Indian press, 1950-1958.
Interviews with persons in India.