It has been a long and memorable journey so far. Something that is striking about this Mysurean is his ‘never-say-no’ approach. That he wants to remain part of the system and do something to the society all the times makes him really special. It can be any issue. Be it civic, environment, water conservation or ill-effects of tobacco. Vasanthkumar Mysoremath is ready for a discussion even in the middle of the night. Enthusiastic as ever, Vasantkumar is a workaholic who enjoys what he does and does what he enjoys.
When most people want to relax post-retirement, Vasantkumar was not the one to toe that line when he retired in 2003. After serving Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for close to four decades in various capacities, the 73-year-old social activist, who has many firsts to his credit, Vasanthkumar has donned many roles with an unparalleled degree of success. He is a social activist, consumer activist, an environmentalist and a key person on many public forums in Mysuru.
On rights of consumers and consumerism, Vasanthkumar worked as an advisor and TV anchor for Graahaka Jaagruti Vedike and conducted 52 episodes of live chat with consumers for a private channel in Bengaluru. Shifting to heritage city 10 years, Vasanthkumar is an active member of JNNURM committee on solid waste management, city sanitation task force. His relentless efforts on conservation of water bodies have come in praise from all quarters. He also boasts of conducting skill development workshops for poor youth on a regular basis. Vasanthkumar is also passionate about environmental issues that are bothering mankind. He is instrumental in planting of thousands of saplings in urban and rural areas. The list is endless…
A crusader against use of tobacco in any form, Vasanthkumar’s brainchild Anti Tobacco Forum (ATF) has been conducting workshops and seminars at different levels to create awareness on ill-effects of tobacco. What hurts him most is that our netas are not doing much in this direction. “But this will not perturb my approach. I will keep fighting as long as I can,” he says with determination writ large on his face.
He has been honoured by the World Bank for his ‘save electricity campaign’ in Karnataka. For his project Unlimited Savings of Electrical Energy (U-SEE), Vasanthkumar was invited by the WB for a presentation.
Vasanthkumar hates to see anyone sitting idle. When he says we can do so much to the society, it is not without a reason. This gentleman’s philosophy of life is simple: Work… work… work.
Could you tell us something about childhood?
I was born in Shivamogga. Father was a clerk in Health Department and mother a housewife. I studied in Kannada medium in government schools. I cherish the playgrounds around the schools that enabled children to get enough exercise with greenery around and fresh air to breath. Was leader in organizing vanamahotsavas.
Schooling and college
Schools and colleges did not have good libraries or laboratories. Since I was a voracious reader of Kannada books, I always visited public libraries to satiate myself. At college level, was a union leader and was involved in event management, was football and NCC captain (adjudged as the best shooter at various state level NCC camps), was a playwright for content creation and acted in street dramas.
What was your parents’ influence when you were young?
Father was a disciplinarian and gave us only two chaddis and two shirts – one pair was on the rope and the other on ourselves – to teach us how to live moderately. Viswanathaiah Mysoremath was a part time freedom fighter and mother Annapurnamma was a kind and loving housewife who managed everything. She was a simple soul, fond of reading and was an excellent guide and philosopher.
Any particular person you always look to for inspiration.
Yes, our former President APJ Abdul Kalaam. I was very fond of him and followed his various achievements with lot of interest. His favorite social project PURA – Providing Urban facilities in Rural Areas was the inspiration for me to develop an innovative project for World Bank.
Most memorable moment in your life.
My mother used to make me go with my father whenever he left home late in the evenings to take part in some freedom movements at some secret places. In January 1947 (when I was about three and half years old) one of the meeting places was raided by British and Indian police and participants were beaten up. My father while protecting me, was hit on his head, blood woozing, he carried me, ran and when we came back home, I was petrified to see my body was covered with blood from my father. From that day onwards, I started taking part in every procession and event organised for India’s freedom.
Any forgettable moment.
Yes, I want to forget but can’t. That was when my father hid a letter from Air Force that informed my selection for the post of trainee pilot and directing me to report to Dehradun within a particular date. I had appeared for the selection and was eagerly waiting. After some years, while cleaning the house, I found this letter and most disappointed.
Could you tell us briefly about your social work post-retirement?
I did not want to idle after my retirement in October 2003. My family told me to relax and be happy. I tried to relax but somehow I could not bear the idling. It was as though I was waiting for something to happen to me. So I decided to work for some of the issues that were bothering our community.
Voters Awareness Movement (VAM): In collaboration with Election Commission Officers in Mysuru, designed, developed and conducted a number of awareness camps at various degree colleges in Bengaluru and Mysuru for attracting youths who have completed 18 years of age to enroll themselves in the electoral rolls. During general elections of 2009, 2014, enabled more than 6000 and 5800 new student voters registrations respectively.
Consumers’ awareness: Honourary advisor and TV anchor for Graahaka Jaagruthi Vedike of Karnataka Graahaka Parishat, Bengaluru: Conducted about 52 episodes of live TV ‘phone-in’ programmes on 4M TV Channel, Bengaluru for creating awareness about rights of consumers and consumerism. Also at Mysuru, as former member, Mysore Graahakara Parishat (MGP) conducted various food adulteration/detection awareness camps.
World Bank honour: IDM-2007 competition. My Project 585-U-SEE (Unliited Saving of Electrical Energy) was one among 50 finalists that attracted more than 2600 entries throughout India. Was invited to showcase Project U-SEE in May 2007 at World Bank Arena in Delhi. The competition was inaugurated by Dr Kalaam and visited my stall, appreciated the simple technique of using reflectors and mirrors to stop misuse of scarce electricity during day time in our homes, offices, banks, commercial places etc. Dr Kalaam told me to take this to schools, colleges and huts in hadis in rural areas. He also advised me to include Project U-SEE under his ambitious PURA –Providing Urban facilities in Rural Areas. Website https://sunlightexpertvasanth.carbonmade.com provides details of how Project U-SEE can be implemented at rural and urban areas.
Solid Waste Management in Mysuru: As a nominee of JnNURM Committee on Solid Waste Management for preparing a Vision Statement for management of solid waste in Mysore by 2020, presented a report containing to the Mysore City Corporation in 2010 with suggestions containing innovative ideas on how to manage plastic waste, e.waste, street-swept waste and other wastes in Mysuru even beyond 2020. .
You are a crusader against use of tobacco… How far have been successful?
Since 2005, under my NGO flagship ATF, I am instrumental in conducting World No Tobacco Day every year on 31st May. I’m a regular invitee at schools and colleges for special lecture series on ill-effects of consumption of tobacco products. I have conducted workshops at more than 600 schools/colleges covering more than 50,000 students and in public places. Efforts of ATF have been appreciated in WHO Tobacco Free Initiative records.
What are your other activities?
HRD – employability skills: As a trained HRD resource person, been conducting workshops on employability skills for poor youth in urban slums and in government schools and colleges.
What has life taught you?
Life is a lesson, learn it; it is a challenge, face it; it is game, play it according to the rules; it is a drama, enact your part.