GVR, the man who put the bite in Sebi’s orders

In a tribute to GVR, former Sebi chairman C B Bhave says, a brilliant mind, he delighted in hard work and meticulous preparation.

G V Ramakrishna (GVR as he was popularly known) breathed his last on Saturday morning at the age of 91.

His health was failing for some time.

He was the epitome of what any civil servant should aspire to be.

A brilliant mind, he delighted in hard work and meticulous preparation.

By his own example, he taught those around him the value of these virtues.

He came to the petroleum ministry in 1985 as the secretary when I was a junior deputy secretary there.

There was a generation gap between us. He was 23 years my senior in service.

A series of coincidences resulted in my reporting directly to him and watching him at close quarters.

Destiny had dealt me a wonderful hand.

He dealt with politicians in a respectful and firm manner.

There was no mistaking his position on an issue.

His choice of words when in a tight corner was extraordinary.

When he had explained the position of the ministry to a Parliamentary Committee repeatedly, one of the members pressed him for his personal opinion in the matter.

He replied, “Sir, I do not hold personal opinions in official matters.”

That one sentence had politeness, clarity, brevity, and firmness — that was GVR.

A man of impeccable integrity, he would not allow righteousness, a quality that often comes with integrity, to get the better of him.

The HBJ pipeline contract tender was handled in a clean and competent manner by the ministry under his guidance and leadership.

Snam Progetti was one of the bidders and despite their machinations the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder.

The party which won the contract was so happy(!) that they offered a bribe of Rs 34 crore (a large sum in those days) to GVR, to be kept at his disposal in whichever currency and account he preferred.

In such a situation one would expect an officer of integrity to dismiss the party forthwith and decline the offer.

Not GVR, the ever-vigilant public servant.

He told the party that he would accept their offer and consequently they would have to reduce the contract amount by Rs 34 crore, which they did.

Integrity is a virtue indeed but needs to be accompanied with a quick and sharp wit and a clear focus on public interest.

To my mind, only GVR could have pulled this off!

As Sebi chairman, in 1992, he presided over the transformation of the institution from an administrative body to a statutory body.

He laid the foundation for Sebi that has helped it to be a respected regulator at home and abroad.

GVR kept the focus clearly on the interests of investors and pursued it relentlessly.

In 1991, he asked me if I would like to work with him in Sebi.

To me, that question had but one answer.

Who would miss a second opportunity to work with this great mind!

Even after Sebi, he continued to be in demand in the Government of India.

A quintessential public servant, he served the government for 50 years.

I continued to be in touch with him and gained much from his wise counsel.

Even when I met him a year ago, his ever active mind was full of ideas on public policy and up to date on current issues.

With GVR’s demise, India has lost a legend among public servants and I a father figure.

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