Ramnath Goenka in 1942
22 April 1904|
Darbhanga, Bihar, British India
|Died||5 October 1991
Mumbai, Maharastra, India
Ramnath Goenka (1904–1991) was an Indian newspaper publisher. He launched The Indian Express and created the Indian Express Group with various English and regional language publications. In 2000, India Today magazine, named him amongst their list of "100 People Who Shaped India".
Ramnath Goenka was born on 22 April 1904, in Dildar Nagar village, in the Darbhanga district of Bihar, India. His mother died when he was six months old and he was adopted by his aunt who was widow of Basant Lal Goenka who had died in 1901 leaving a large business and several estates.
Career prior to newspapers
He joined the business of his maternal uncles, Babu Prahlad Rai Dalmia and Babu Sagarmal Dalmia, in Calcutta and was sent to the firm of Sukhdevdoss Ramprasad, the largest Indian business dealing in yarn and piece goods. In 1922, he moved to Madras as the agent for Sukhdevdoss Ramprasad.on a salary of Rs. 30/- and took shelter with a family named Chaudhry which hailed from a village near to his native Mandawa, at 23 Peria Naicker Street.
Subsequently, in 1925, Goenka entered into a business partnership with Murliprasad Mohanprasad of Hyderabad, India. Their business was as piecegoods merchants in Madras and it continued until around 1932–1933. In 1926, Goenka was also nominated as member of the Madras Legislative Council by the Governor.[who?]
Goenka joined the Bombay Co. Ltd. as chief salesman,[when?] a post he held till the end of 1936. A keen racing[clarification needed] enthusiast in his younger days, he gave up the pastime in 1935–36 and took to journalism in earnest.
Career in newspapers
In 1932, he had took over the loss-making Madras edition of The Free Press Journal, driving the delivery van himself to dispatch the papers. He founded The Indian Express in 1936, and in 1941, he was elected President of the National Newspaper Editors' Conference. Following this, both The Indian Express and Goenka himself openly challenged the British Raj.
In 1936: Goenka gave Promossory Note of Rs. 500,000 ( Rs.Five Lakhs ) on 1 September 1936 in favour of Raja Mohan Prasad of Hyderabad his Financing Partner. The Promissory note still remains unpaid even after 75 years. Goenka also gave a declaration in 1936 that he was a trustee of all the properties purchased in his name including the debentures of Free Press of India (Madras) Ltd. and were purchased out of the monies of Raja Mohan Prasad Murliprasad Mohanprasad of Hyderabad,India.
In 1948, Daily Tej[clarification needed] partnered with Goenka to publish Indian News Chronicle, an English daily, from New Delhi. After the death of Lala Deshbandhu Gupta, Goenka converted it to The Indian Express.[clarification needed] Upon independence he was nominated as a member to the Constituent Assembly of India.
Goenka played a significant role during the "Emergency" in India and challenged Indira Gandhi. His battle with the business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani is still remembered. His critics believe that his passion for politics was the fire that led the newspapers from Indian Express Group on a blazing trail.
In the first post-independence elections, held in 1952, Goenka contested from Tindivanam seat (Madras Province) as Congress candidate, but he was defeated by a candidate who favoured Tamil nationalism and who was supported by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
He was married to Moongibai. The couple had a son, B. D. Goenka, who was slated to take over Indian Express, but died as a result of a cardiac arrest.
Until his untimely death in 1979, B.D. Goenka was the managing director of Indian Express directly under his father, Ramnath Goenka's chairmanship.
B. D. Goenka's wife, Saroj Goenka, assumed her late husband's position as managing director and thereupon ran the newspaper successfully for the next 12 years, until her father-in-law's death in 1991.
Ramnath Goenka's death triggered a bitter legal dispute that lasted for years until it was ultimately settled out of court.
Goenka's daughter, Krishna, who was married to A. M. Khaithan of the Calcutta Khaithans, the world's largest tea producers and battery manufacturers through the ownership of Williamson Magor. Another heir was Vivek Khaitan, who was adopted in 1990 and changed his name to Viveck Goenka, and is presently[when?] the chairman and managing director of the Indian Express Limited. Another of Goenka's daughter married into the Sonthalia family in Chennai. Her son Manoj Kumar Sonthalia runs The New Indian Express Group based in Chennai.
Relations with the Ambani family
At one point in time, Goenka was close to both Dhirubhai Ambani and Nusli Wadia. On many occasions, Goenka tried to intervene between these two warring factions and bring an end to their enmity.
The Indian Express carried a series of articles against Reliance Industries and Ambani in which they claimed that Ambani was using unfair trade practices to maximise the profits. Rather than use his staff at The Indian Express to investigate the matter, Goenka assigned the task to his confidant and advisor, S. Gurumurthy. Stories were also contributed by journalist Maneck Davar, who was also independent of the newspaper.
The dispute ended when Ambani suffered a stroke. While he was recovering in San Diego, his sons, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, managed his affairs. The Indian Express had turned the guns against Reliance and was blaming the government for not doing enough to penalise Reliance Industries. The battle between Wadia, Goenka and the Ambanis took a new direction and became a national crisis.
Relations with RSS, Jana Sangh and the BJP
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2012)|
Goenka was alleged to have been close to Hindu Nationalist organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and its daughter political parties the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party. He was said to be friendly to RSS activist Nanaji Deshmukh and the Rajmata of Gwalior Vijayaraje Scindia, both members of the RSS and the BJS. He was also close to Jayprakash Narayan and supported the latter to become PM in 1975. His aides S. Gurumurthy and J. K. Jain were also known to be RSS members. His most famous editor was Arun Shourie, who later became a BJP minister. Arun Jaitley, who represented Goenka in some legal cases, later served V. P. Singh's government in a legal capacity was later a minister when the BJP came to power.
Goenka died in Mumbai on 5 October 1991.
- George, T. J. S. (2006). The Goenka Letters: Behind the scenes in The Indian Express. Madras: East West Books. ISBN 978-81-88661-50-3.
- Verghese, B. G. Warrior of the Fourth Estate. Penguin India. ISBN 0-670-05842-4. – official biography
- Goenka, Ananya (2005). Ramnath Goenka: A life in Black and White. – a privately published book written by his daughter-in-law
- Jeffrey, Robin (2000). India's Newspaper Revolution: Capitalism, Politics and the Indian-Language Press, 1977–99. C. Hurst & Co. ISBN 9781850654346.
- Verghese, B. G. (2010). First Draft: Witness to the Making of Modern India. Westland Ltd./HOV Services. ISBN 9789380283760.
- McDonald, Hamish. Mahabharata in Polyester. UNSW Press. ISBN 9781742240114.
- Aggarwal, S. K. (1989). Media Credibility. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170991571.
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