Dr Chandrashekhar Gangayya Betsurmath needs no introduction. A towering personality in the heritage city, Betsurmath’s achievement as commissioner of Mysore City Corporation is second to none. In a free-wheeling chat with City Sunday, he takes us down the memory lane. Right from his childhood days in Belgaum, Betsurmath has not put a wrong step forward. Very articulate and disciplined right through his distinguished career, Betsurmath, who retired a couple of weeks back, says he has had a satisfying journey so far. If the Mysureans talk highly of Betsurmath, there is a strong reason. Though he has retired, Betsurmath is not the one to sit back relax. Given his enthusiasm, he says he would like to keep serving the society as long as he can.
Could you tell us something about childhood? How much of it do you relish?
I have relished every moment of my childhood till date. It taught me lessons to face challenges. I was creative in my childhood. I used to wake up every day at 4 am, study for the first two hours under a lantern and after fetching water on bicycle I used to head to school by walk, up and fro, a total of 6 km every day. After school, come back straight home and study again till 10 pm. I never felt unexcited that I studied under a lantern, instead, I studied and made my 4 sisters study under the same lantern and we enjoyed it.
What is your parents’ influence on you?
My father Gangayya Betsurmath left his native place Hanashi in Navalagund taluk, Dharwad when he was a student at 4th grade and continued his studies in Belgaum and retired as a primary school Head Master. My mother Bhagirati is a simple housewife. Though they had a tough time, they always wished the best for me. I have one elder sister and three younger sisters. My family includes a never demanding wife Asha, son Daksh who has done his BE (ECE), MBA & MS in Global Marketing & daughter Srishti who is studying her 4th year MBBS.
Can you recall those early days and friends?
My native is Belgaum and the city was very courteous for my initial 18 years. This city has taught me how to grow. As someone who has traveled and moved around cities and homes for as long as I can remember, change has been a habitual part of my life. As much as I believe that I’ve grown accustomed to transition, I’m just now realizing that the most important series of changes that have ever happened to me happened to me in my native. It was there that I learned what I would and wouldn’t tolerate from my life, and how to fight for what I want.
Was it a long preparation to pass KAS?
Many people don’t believe and I normally don’t tell anybody. I did not prepare for KAS my examinations. My friends just asked me to apply for the examination but I did not study because I was not interested in administrative services, as I mentioned earlier also that I was always interested in teaching and research. One day prior to the start of the examination I happen to meet my University Professor Dr. N. S. Hiremath and as per his instructions I just went to the examination hall to collect the question papers and wrote all the 6 papers. For my luck whatever that I had studied during my college and university days, my hand writing, the atlas which I had prepared during college days, the research paper which I had submitted in one of the conferences, all came to my assistance and stood first to state in 1983 KAS examinations in my first attempt itself. Even after the selection I did not want to join. My friends and teachers forced me to join the administrative services. This is how I am here. Joined as a Tahsildar and worked at Navalagund, Gokak, Shiggaon, Bhatkal, Chikkodi, worked as Assistant Commissioner Gadag and Davanagere sub-divisions, Additional DC in Davanagere, Bellary and Mysuru, Commissioner MUDA, Commissioner Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, Commissioner Mysuru City Corporation. I did not try for any places for postings during my service, but served sincerely with complete dedication and without fear wherever the Government wished to place me. I did justice in all the fields like revenue administration, development administration, public administration, elections, law and order, & urban development. I did not give much importance to my personal life but served the people. Ultimately I reached the highest cadre in Karnataka Administrative Services i.e., Senior Super Time Scale. I am proud having served as a KAS officer.
Next time you’re tempted to stall in the face of failure or success, treat them both the same way. Think about how much better you’ll feel if you speak up, act on your ideas and keep moving towards higher things. You’ve done it before; you can do it again. – Dr C G Betsurmath
At the helm of affairs in MCC, what are your achievements? Are you happy with what you have achieved?
With my rich experience in administration I stepped into Mysuru during elections 7 years ago as Additional Deputy Commissioner of Mysuru and took steps to streamline revenue administration, establish wireless control room etc. After two years, I was posted as Commissioner, Mysuru Urban Development Authority and during my tenure of two and half years, among others, I was able to complete major portion of the Ring Road, started construction of Dr Ambedkar Bhavan, Babu Jagajeevanram Bhavan and Valmiki Bhavan, distributed sites in Lalitadri Nagar, implemented GIS system, completed Mukti Dham (a hi-tech crematorium), synthetic hockey ground, indoor wooden volley ball court and sports complex at Vijayanagar. During my tenure as Commissioner Archaeology, Museums and Heritage for more than two years. I ensured that, Deccan Sultanate Architecture of Bijapur, Gulbarga, Bidar; Hoysala Architecture of Belur, Halebidu and Somanathpur and Island of monuments Shrirangapatna were included in the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list; took up conservation of 138 ancient monuments, opened museum at Yalandur, museum in Commissioner’s office, took up conservation of St Philomena Church; held many heritage related activities like heritage walks, heritage cycling, publication of books. My tenure of one year ten months as a Mysuru City Corporation Commissioner was a real challenge. I took every issue as a challenge and tried to resolve in a planned way. Streamlined administration, and brought some discipline; Mysuru city received First Cleanest City of India award second time in a row from Government of India and also received Top Cleanest City of India award from Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi; I was able to complete a major portion of Raja Marg, Multilevel Basement Parking in Town Hall; completed Installation of HH Jayachamaraj Wodeyar statue and development of Hardinge Circle and R K Narayan’s Heritage House; commenced the conservation works of Landsdowne building, Devaraj Market building, Boti Bazar, Irwin Road; put up dry waste collection centres at 47 wards.
Post-retirement, what are your plans?
It’s easy to rest & enjoy the second innings of my life, to say ‘I’ve done well, and that’s enough’. But being better than others is not the same as being the best that I could be, and if I stand still then eventually I will be surpassed. I plan to continue to work and dedicate the rest of my life for the betterment of people and society, I would want to work for the people who have given me so much to remember. I respect the word IMPOSSIBLE, it has a hidden meaning to it. It says I’M POSSIBLE.