Ramnath Goenka in 1942
22 April 1904|
Darbhanga, Bihar, British India
|Died||5 October 1991
Mumbai, Maharashtra, 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.
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 horse racing 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 taken 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.
Family and heirs
Goenka had an arranged marriage with Moongibai at a young age. The couple had a son, Bhagwan Das, and two daughters, Krishna Khaitan and Radha Sonthalia. The elder daughter, Krishna, was married to A. M. Khaitan, scion of the Kolkata-based Khaitan business family, owners of Eveready Batteries and McLeod Russel/Williamson Magor, the world's largest tea producers. The younger daughter, Radha, was married into the Chennai-based Sonthalia business family.
B. D. Goenka, was slated to take over his father's business interests, prime among which was the Indian Express, for which he served as managing director under the chairmanship of his father. However, B. D. Goenka died suddenly of a heart attack in 1979, leaving a wife and three daughters. The absence of a direct male heir caused Ramnath to decide to adopt his grandson, Vivek Khaitan, son of A. M. Khaitan and his wife Krishna. He was chosen because he had a brother Upon his adoption, Vivek Khaitan changed his name to Vivek Goenka.
The adoption was acknowledged by other members of the family but a bitter property dispute nevertheless broke out among them after Ramnath Goenka died in 1991. An out-of-court settlement was finally reached in 1995. By this settlement, Saroj Goenka and her daughters received ownership of prime property in Mumbai and Delhi but lost control of the Indian Express. The newspaper was divided into two separate publishing entities, one controlled by Vivek Goenka and the other by his cousin Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, son of Radha Sonthalia. Vivek Goenka received ownership of the Mumbai-based Indian Express Limited, controlling the seven north Indian editions. Manoj Kumar Sonthalia received ownership of the Chennai/Madurai-based The New Indian Express, controlling the nine south Indian editions.
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.
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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