Rediff Logo News Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
February 18, 1998


C Subramaniam awarded Bharat Ratna

C S Subramaniam Gandhian and former Union minister C Subramaniam has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award, a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said on Wednesday.

Subramaniam, who also served as governor of Maharashtra, handled several major portfolios in the Union Cabinet.

He is the third person in recent months to get this prestigious award. Renowned Carnatic vocalist M S Subbulakshmi was given the award ten days before Republic Day. In December, A P J Abdul Kalam, scientific adviser to the defence minister and the architect of India's missile programme, was given the award.

Incidentally, all three winners hail from Tamil Nadu!

The first person from Tamil Nadu to get the Bharat Ratna was former governor-general C Rajagopalachari, followed by Dr S Radhakrishnan, and M G Ramachandran, who was given the award posthumously in 1988.

A champion of probity in public life, Subramaniam was in the news last week for being on a panel of eminent persons who named 62 candidates as being unfit to contest the current election.

Subramaniam, a former Union agriculture minister, said he shared the Bharat Ratna award with millions of farmers and thousands of scientists who contributed to the success of the Green Revolution.

Subramaniam, who has been admitted with a bout of wheezing and infection and is recovering at a private hospital in Madras, said it was not only the conferment of the award that gave him pleasure but also the fact that he was able to serve the country in various capacities to the best of his abilities.

He also expressed his gratitude to his uncle, the late Swami Chitbhavanandha, who shaped his life from childhood and his mentor C Rajagopalachari and former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who, he said, had encouraged him in his political career.

President K R Narayanan himself called Subramaniam's home and conveyed news of honour to members of the household.

An able administrator, CS, during his long and distinguished political career spanning five decades, held several posts with distinction and launched important schemes.

While he had a great penchant for discipline, he never hesitated in quitting whenever the need arose. One case was his resignation as governor of Maharashtra. Way back in 1965, he and O V Alagesan, quit the Union cabinet at the height of the anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu.

Born on January 30, 1910, at Senguttupalayam near Pollachi in Coimbatore district, he received his early education at Pollachi and higher education at Madras.

He earned a law degree from the University of Madras in 1932 and became an advocate at Coimbatore in 1936. In between, he was imprisoned for taking part in the Freedom Movement.

He took a deep interest in politics when he was imprisoned again in 1941 and during the Quit India Movement the next year. As a protege of Rajaji, he became president of the Coimbatore District Congress Committee and member of the Tamil Nadu Congress Working Committee.

In 1948, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly. In 1952, Subramaniam became a member of the Tamil Nadu cabinet and held important portfolios like finance, education, and law for the next 10 years.

The acumen with which he handled the portfolios under the stewardship of Rajaji, K Kamaraj and M Bhaktavatsalam enabled the state to achieve educational progress and all-round development.

Tamil Nadu was one of the first few states to introduce free primary education. Subramaniam was also instrumental in introducing the midday meal programme for poor school children.

In 1962, he was elected to Lok Sabha and became Cabinet minister in charge of steel (1962-65), steel mines and heavy engineering (1965-66) , food and agriculture (1966-67).

His tenure as minister for steel and heavy industries, saw the initiation of steps for improving the working of existing units and the setting up of new ones.

As minister for food and agriculture, he played a decisive role in the Green Revolution, introducing high yielding varieties of seeds and intensifying the application of fertilisers, which increased the output of cereals in the late 60s and helped India attain self-sufficiency in foodgrain production.

When the Congress split under Indira Gandhi in 1969, Subramaniam cast his lot with her and functioned as the interim president of the new Congress headed by her.

He was instrumental in striking an alliance between the Congress and the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu for the 1971 election.

When Indira Gandhi clamped the Emergency in 1975, Subramaniam stood by her. But he later parted company with her and joined the Congress lead by K Brahmananda Reddy. In the shortlived 1979 Charan Singh Cabinet, he served as defence minister.

After his retirement from active politics in the 1980s, he became a crusader against corruption in high places.

He had a long-standing commitment to improve nutritional standards of children in developing countries. In 1970, at the invitation of the then United Nations secretary general, he had prepared a strategy statement for fighting protein hunger in the developing countries. In 1971, he headed a panel of experts that threw up recommendations for action by the UN General Assembly.

In recognition of his contribution to and interest in evolving agricultural development policies and programmes, Subramaniam was elected to the board of governors of the International Rice Research Institute, Manila, and the International Maize and Wheat Research Institute, Mexico, in the late 1970s.

On Subramaniam's contribution to the Green Revolution, the Nobel laureate Dr Norman E Borlaug wrote: 'The vision and influence of Subramaniam in bringing about agricultural change and in the very necessary political decisions needed to make the new approach effective, should never be underemphasised. The groundwork for this advance (in the production of wheat), was solidly laid during the period (1964-67), when Subramaniam was the guiding political force, instituting change.'

'India needs a generation revolution'
'People who occupy power should be like sanyasis'
Remembering the Freedom Struggle

Bharat Ratna for M S Subbulakshmi
MS happy in her sadness
Abdul Kalam awarded Bharat Ratna
No country can throttle us, says Abdul Kalam

A P J Abdul Kalam is Rediff Indian of the Year 1997

Tell us what you think of this report