Governors of RBI: Major Events During their Tenure

Sir Osborne Smith (1935-1937)

  • Sir Osborne Smith was the first Governor of RBI. He had earlier headed the Imperial Bank of India.
  • Lord Willingdon was India’s Viceroy when RBI started operations and sir Osborne Smith took charge as its governor.
  • Due to his differences with the government over issues such as exchange rates, interest rates etc. he resigned before completion of his term. Thus, he is also the first Governor of RBI who resigned before completion of his term.
  • Further, please note that he did not sign any currency note during his tenure as RBI governor.
Sir James Taylor (1937-1943)

  • First and Second governors of RBI were British. The second governor Sir James Taylor had played important role in drafting and piloting of the RBI bill in legislative assembly.
  • He also helped the country to do away with the silver coins and go for fiat (paper) currency.
  • He served as RBI governor for two terms but died in office during his second term.
Sir CD Deshmukh (1943-1949)

  • Sir Chintaman Dwarkanath Deshmukh was the first Indian governor of RBI.
  • He had witnessed crucial events such as transfer of power from British to India and Pakistan and division of respective assets and liabilities between the two new countries; banking regulation act, nationalization of RBI etc.
  • World Bank and IMF were created during his tenure. He represented India at the Bretton Woods negotiations in 1944.
  • He also served as India’s finance minister later.
Sir Benegal Rama Rau (1949-1957)

  • Sir Benegal Rama Rau (in office from 1949 to 1957) is longest serving RBI governor so far.
  • During his tenure, the recommendations of the All India Rural Credit Survey Committee led to the nationalization and transformation of Imperial Bank of India to State Bank of India.
  • The proportional reserve system of note issue was replaced by a minimum reserve system to give the Bank greater flexibility.
  • Further, during his tenure, RBI changed the system of note issue from Proportional Reserve System requiring the Reserve Bank to maintain 40% gold and forex reserves against note issue to a minimum reserve system (in 1956). This was to enable the expanding currency requirements of the economy to be met.
  • However, he had resigned towards end of his second term due to differences with the finance minister.
KG Ambegaonkar (January-February, 1957)
  • Sir Benegal Rama Rau was replaced by KG Ambegaonkar, who served as interim RBI governor for only around a month and did not sign any currency note.
HVR Iengar (1957-1962)

  • During tenure of H V R Iengar, India saw the shift of its coinage from olden pies, paise and anna to decimal system.
  • During his times, the Refinance Corporation for Industry Ltd was introduced to catalyze the industrial finance in country.
  • To boost the confidence of depositors, RBI introduced Deposit Insurance in 1962 thus becoming one of the earliest countries to do so.
PC Bhattacharya (1962-1967)
  • During tenure of PC Bhattacharya, Industrial Development Bank of India (1964, Agricultural Refinance Corporation (1963) and Unit Trust of India (1964) were established.
  • He also introduced Credit Authorisation Scheme as an instrument of Credit Regulation.
  • Rupee was devalued in 1966 during his tenure.
LK Jha (1967-1970)
  • During term of L K Jha, India saw establishment of National Credit Council in 1968. Shortly afterwards, 14 major commercial banks were nationalized but RBI had not endorsed this move.
  • Gold control act was also passed during his tenure.
BN Adarkar (May-June, 1970)
  • He served as interim Governor and played active role in establishment of the National Institute of Bank Management.
S Jagannathan (1970-1975)
  • The tenure of Jagannathan saw very active years of monetary policy due to high inflation due to oil shock of 1973.
NC Sen Gupta (1975-1975)
  • NC Sen Gupta served as interim governor for three months.
KR Puri (1975-1977)

KR Puri was chairman and MD of LIC before his appointment as RBI Governor. During his tenure, Regional Rural Banks were set up and Rs. 1000 note was demonetized. The Rs. 1000 note was later reintroduced in 2000.

M Narasimham (February-November, 1977)
  • M Narasimham was the first Governor to be appointed from the Reserve Bank cadre.
  • He served only for seven months but then afterwards served Indian financial system as chairperson of the Committee on the Financial System, 1991 and the Committee of Banking Sector Reforms, 1998. These committees are famously called first and second Narsimham committees.
Dr. I G Patel (1977-1982)
  • The tenure of IG Patel saw demonetisation of high denomination notes (Rs. 1000, Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10000) as well as the “gold auctions” conducted by the Bank on behalf of Government of India.
  • During his tenure, second phase of nationalization occurred in which six private sector banks were nationalized.
  • Targets for priority sector lending were introduced.
Dr. Manmohan Singh (1982-1985)
  • Tenure of Dr. Manmohan Singh as RBI Governor saw amendment of RBI Act and set up of Urban Banks Department in RBI.
A Ghosh (January-February, 1985)
  • A Ghosh served as interim governor for short period.
RN Malhotra (1985-1990)
  • RN Malhotra is know for several developments in Indian Money Markets and introduction of new instruments.
  • During his tenure, Discount and Finance House of India and National Housing Bank were set up.
  • Towards rural credit, Service Area Approach was adopted to speed up flow of credit through commercial banks.
S Venkitaramanan (1990-1992)
  • His term saw India struggling with external sector difficulties and India adopting to IMF’s stabilization programme.
  • Rupee was devalued for second time and India entered into Liberalization, Globalization and Privatization.
Dr. C Rangarajan (1992-1997)
  • Tenure of Dr. C Rangarajan saw unprecedented central bank activism to put in place a comprehensive set of measures to strengthen and improve the competitive efficiency of the financial sector.
Dr. Bimal Jalan (1997-2003)
  • Tenure of Bimal Jalan should be noted for strengthening of the balance of payments and Forex position, low inflation and soft interest rates.
Dr. YV Reddy (2003-2008)
  • Yaga Venugopal Reddy is known for saving Indian banking system from the sub-prime and liquidity crisis of 2008.
  • He probably used the term Financial Inclusion for the first time in April 2005 in Annual Monetary Policy statement.
Dr. D. Subbarao (2008-2013)
  • His tenure is known for stringent monetary policy measures and savings bank rate deregulation.
Dr. Raghuram Rajan (2013-2016)
  • Tenure of Dr. Raghuram Rajan is known for several major initiatives such as setting up of Monetary Policy Committee, granting small and payment banks licenses and launch of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
Urjit Patel (2016-2018)

During his tenure, the Government of India demonetised the ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series, with the stated intention of curbing corruption, black money, fake currency and terrorism from 9 November 2016.


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