Circle Name: Netkallapa Circle named after Rao Saheb Netakallappa
Circle Location: Basavanagudi
Rao Saheb Netkallappa, was a contractor, grain merchant, banker, municipal councilor, legislator, philanthropist and social worker. He was an astute businessman with a heart of pure gold. His was a sort of grand modesty, heartfelt but extravagant; a merciless vivacity to leave no stone unturned. He had a priceless gift to draw all people towards him, was known as ” Dodda Yejamanaru” to most of the people. His elder brother, K N Guruswamy founded the Deccan Herald and the Prajavani group.
Born in Kanekal village of Raidurg taluk in Bellary (then a part of undivided Madras presidency), young Nettakallappa lost his father, Anjanappa, early. Mother Kadiramma and siblings, notwithstanding, he dug a lone burrow. Getting into liquor business, he steadily grew. Leveraging business and social standing, he gave back to society more than he ever got. As Bellary municipal councilor and District Board member, he supported a number of public and philanthropic causes. He was honorary visitor to the Alipur Central Jail (now Bellary jail) and honorary magistrate. He contributed generously towards construction of marriage halls, hostels and temples. The hostel grounds in Bellary fetch handsome returns even today.
A 1920 record, saved by Mr. M R Venkataswamy speaks of the vision and the steadfastness of purpose of Netkallappa and his Idiga community peers, though all of them had minimal education. During the early 1900s having made a prominent mark in Bellary, Netkallappa decided to move on. The lure of business and courage infused by life’s most enduring art of living brought him to Bangalore, A hub where trades, commerce and industrial activity grew rapidly. Barely 32 and energetic, Nettakallappa expanded his liquor business to Bombay province and Nizam’s dominion as well. He also diversified and started a grain ‘mandi’. To facilitate merchants, Nettakallappa started a bank exclusively for them. How did he manage so many businesses across three States? He relied on trusted lieutenants and God. Devout as he was, he celebrated Hindu festivals with aplomb. Brahmins were called home to ward off the evil effects of eclipses. But, his faith in serving humanity was greater. He made it a daily ritual to carry small pouches containing different sums of money, to work. When people approached him for help, he gave a quick hearing and dispensed sums according to the need — larger purses for medical treatment and weddings, smaller sums for mundane challenges.
State fund, Gandhi Khadi fund, Girl Guides Association, Silver Jubilee fund, blind and dumb schools were other beneficiaries of his generosity. The Girl Guides Association remembers his service to this day on special occasions. During the 1907 drought, he fed poor for three whole months. Nettakallappa’s entrepreneurial zeal and social awareness appealed to the sensibilities of the British rulers. They promptly conferred on him the title of ‘Rao Saheb’. Rao Saheb Nettakallappa was a man always in a hurry, to achieve. He was restless to serve society in fuller measure. He realised that political power had more selling points than financial power. He became a member of the Bangalore municipal council, which governed the old city areas, while Bangalore civil and military station municipality covered the Cantonment area. Later, he was nominated to the Mysore Representative Assembly under Special Interests category. Centenarian and former Chief Justice of Mysore High Court, Nittur Srinivasa Rau, describes Rao Saheb in just two words – ‘Merchant Prince’. He remembers the beautiful, old-style bungalow he owned in Sultanpet, then a hub of important members of society. He also recalls that Nettakallappa was always on the side of the people, despite his clout with the government.
Rao Saheb’s legacy lives on. His eldest son Guruswamy and grandson K A Nettakallappa, among other contributions, gave the State the popular Deccan Herald and Prajavani daily newspapers, with a quality and character of their own.
To this day, the famous Nettakallappa Circle and the nearby bus shelter in Basavanagudi, erected in memory of Rao Saheb Nettakallappa, stand as modest reminders of the Grand Old Man of Kanekal, who provided deep pockets, not just for his many businesses, but for social causes as well.