When his silver SUV zips on the smooth roads of Bidar, it grabs everyone’s attention. Uniformed children walking in groups wave with loud cheers, elderly men lazing on the street corner bow in reverence, women quickly cover their heads and do a namaste. Young girls giggle.
It’s but natural for an outsider to the town to think that a celebrity is travelling in that monstrous vehicle. And yes, he is no less than a celebrity — Bidar deputy commissioner Harsh Gupta.”Ask CMC commissioner to talk to me, the electricity pole needs to be shifted immediately to complete the road widening work,” he instructs on the wireless. Within seconds, the wireless beeps — “Sir, CMC commissioner here. It will be done by evening.” More instructions follow.Gupta, synonymous with demolitions, is nicknamed `JCB DC’ but hardly looks the type. Reserved, smooth-talking, mild-looking Gupta can give his staff nightmares at times. “He thrives on perfection. When something is not done, our DC’s temper runs high. Since all the officers are connected with wireless, when he thunders, it’s heard by all,” whispers his OSD.Gupta, in a span of two years, has turned around the most backward area of Karnataka — Bidar — into a model town which is being lauded at the national level. Infrastructure development has been fast-tracked with widening of roads, construction of ring roads and building storm water drains. And Gupta, who quietly worked his way around without any hype and publicity, did it by taking the Bidar citizenry along with him — they voluntarily gave up their agricultural lands for ring road construction, and no compensation was paid. Property owners themselves demolished their properties to make way for road widening. Today, Bidar’s roads are far superior to Bangalore’s pot-holed stretches.Born and bred in North India, Gupta is a 1997-batch IAS officer. Barring two stints in Bangalore — with BBMP and commercial taxes department — Gupta’s postings have always been in the interiors: Chikmagalur, Bijapur, Chamarajnagar.Harsh Gupta recalls his stint with the commercial taxes department in Bangalore, working with the then commissioner V Madhu (now the principal secretary of infrastructure development department) and colleague U A Vasanth Rao (taxman of BBMP now with Bangalore Metro). The trio did some of the biggest investigations in the department and recovered crores of rupees in sales tax evasion.Gupta took his experience of working in the BBMP as in-charge of storm water drains to Bidar. Flooding in a low-lying area led to the panic button being pressed and Gupta decided this could be a start. Then began the road to development.Bidar suddenly shot to fame at the national level with the Planning Commission flushing the town with funds for development. The Bidar Utsav organized by the district authorities also showcased the town’s rich heritage. “But it was our deputy commissioner who was the hero at the Bidar Utsav also. So much so, when he went up on stage to welcome Sonu Nigam, the nearly 2-lakh audience stood up and cheered. Sonu Nigam looked dazed and said even a politician or film star does not get this kind of applause from people these days,” adds his OSD.