Ramaswamy Venkataraman was born in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Educated locally and in the city of Madras, Venkataraman obtained his Master Degree in Economics from Madras University. He later qualified in Law from the Law College, Madras.
While practicing Law, Venkataraman was drawn into the movement for India's freedom from Britain's colonial subjugation. His active participation in the Indian National Congress's celebrated resistance to the British Government, the 'Quit India Movement of 1942', Venkataraman's interest in the Law continued during this period. Venkataraman was enrolled in the High Court, of Madras in 1935 and in the Supreme Court in 1951. Venkataraman acquired, early in his legal career, an abiding interest in the law pertaining to labour. He founded, in 1949, the Labour Law Journal which publishes important decisions pertaining to labour and is an acknowledged specialist publication. He came to be associated with trade union activity, founding or leading several unions, including those for plantation workers, estate staff, dock-workers, railway workers and working journalists.
Venkataraman was the member of constituent assembly that drafted India's constitution. From 1957 to 1967 Venkataraman held the portfolios of Industries, Labour, Cooperation, Power, Transport and Commercial Taxes. He held the office until 1971. In 1977, Venkataraman was elected to the Lok Sabha from Madras Constituency and served as an Opposition Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. In 1980, Venkataraman was re-elected to the Lok Sabha and was appointed Union Minister of Finance in the Government formed by Smt Indira Gandhi. He was later appointed as Union Minister of Defence.
Venkataraman was also, a diversified member, of the Political Affairs Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee of the Union Cabinet; Governor, International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Development Bank. Venkataraman was a Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1953, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961. He was a Member, of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal from 1955 to 1979 and was its President from 1968-1979.
Venkataraman has received the Doctorate of Law from University of Madras, and the Nagarjuna University. He is Honorary Fellow from Madras Medical College, Doctor of Social Sciences, from University of Roorkee. He has been awarded The Tamra Patra for participation in the freedom struggle. the Soviet Land Prize was awarded to him for his travelogue (A lecture about travel). He is the receiver of a trophy from the Secretary-General of the United Nations for his remarkable service as President of the U.N Administrative Tribunal. The title of "Sat Seva Ratna" has been conferred on him by His Holiness the Sankaracharya of Kancheepuram.
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