He is probably one of the few people who voted against the party diktat during the trust vote in Parliament in June 2008. This famous cop helped in the arrest of fake stamp paper racket kingpin Abdul Kareem Telgi and former underworld don Muthappa Rai among others, during his services as the Commissioner of Police, Bangalore City.
Films have been made based on his work in the Indian Police Service and he has also appeared in one of them, as himself, playing the role of the Police Commissioner. In the middle of his hectic campaigning schedule and with commandos in tow, Dr Hmar Tlomte Sangliana, former BJP MP, now contesting as a Congress candidate from Bangalore Central constituency, spoke to Citizen Matters ahead of the polls.
Vaishnavi Vittal: You have been talking to scores of voters, we’re sure. What have they been telling you about what they want you to do for them as an MP? Can you summarise that?
Dr H T Sangliana: The voters are mentioning about the water difficulties, in some areas they have not had water for as long as 25 days, it is really terrible. These are the womenfolk who are responsible for fetching water and they are getting up early n the morning, taking responsibility to get water for the entire family, cooking and washing and all, I really feel pity on them and I would propose to the government for solutions to this problem. There should be reservoirs along the rivers, where you can draw in the monsoon water. So if we have these giant reservoirs, all important places along the river side, should be able to feed any number of families in the city and elsewhere.
Then there are electricity problems. And roads, potholes and there is no quality. The contractors are making money. My constructions, you can see my website, it has been five years, not a single pothole has appeared. Electricity, bad roads condition and non-existence of roads and sanitation problems I have seen in a number of places. Every open place is a public latrine. School standard and school fees, they complained. They have to have free education. Private schools are exploiting these poor people. School has become an industry for many people. So these are main problems.
VV: We are still following the 1861 Police Act. Commissions and committees have been formed to bring about reforms. You were a top ranking police officer in the state and then later became an MP. What would you like to see changed about the police system?
HTS: Police system should strictly follow the police act and the police manual. The problem in India is we have more of quantity policemen than quality policemen. You understand?
I would like to see that police are independent, in the sense they should not be, day in and day out influenced by politicians have their own personal agenda in conducting policemen and police officers. So I think we should have certain mechanisms wherein any matter related to security, crime, etc., should be dealt with by the police without any preference. That is one thing.
Another area is that police selection has to be more carefully done which should have something to do with their moral standards, ethical standards and their spiritual standard also. I have been saying that if I have to select among two candidates for a police job, I would select one who has faith in god, who believes in god, who has the fear of god than one who doesn’t. That itself I feel will be able to decide the parameters of what can go right and what can go wrong.
When somebody doesn’t have any fear, he will not have, according to my belief, any compulsion or any kindness or willingness to understand the difficulties of people, or he may not even execute fairly his duties as a police officer. In my own situation I feel that respecting elders, fear of god and faith in god has possibly influenced my official life wherein I knew that god doesn’t want corruption or corrupt mind or corrupt practice. I faithfully try to be, as near as possible, to god. For example, in the scriptures there is a saying that ‘The fear of god is the beginning of wisdom’. This particular proverb is my life principle. So I used to say if I do something very wrong, god will punish me or god will not be happy and if god will not be happy, the natural consequence is that I will not go to heaven, I’ll go to rather hell. So that helped jump across many potholes of life.
Like this even in the police setup, if an officer has virtues like fear of god, faith in god and willingness to forgive and forget, willingness to share his love and affection with neighbours, citizens and if he is concerned about the problems of victims of crime, we can have an ideal policeman. So police selection has to be done very carefully, looking into all these human requirements to form an efficient, accountable, respectable, responsible, disciplined policeman which has not been done enough.
VV: There have been a spate of alarming murders of elders and others in Jayanagar, Banaswadi and other areas. Some (may) say they would like to have Sangliana back to fix these problems – forget national politics. Your response.
HTS: That is only a hypothetical point or question because I will not be reemployed as a police officer or if they want to reemploy me I don’t know as what they would like to reemploy me. It’s god’s will if I will be held responsible for law and order, not in Bangalore city but in the country. We have to have a national policy or a federal policy wherein an effective person will have to be employed for tackling all the police related problems, all law and order and crime related problems. So there has to be some uniform approach to solving problems in different states.
Today unfortunately, some people may say fortunately, police is a state subject. But this point has been a football like situation, where you kick towards the central government which will in turn kick towards the state government, to save their skin or to avoid interference from either side. So you have to have a federal law which should be imperative for the states to accept without simply saying that this is not the jurisdiction of the central government, this is our state subject.
The CBI, for example, some states will consider CBI interference as central government interference in their right of policing. So that way we need to have a federal law for this functioning wherein the central government can intervene, like in the form of the presidential rule.
VV: The city is facing a lot of developmental and growth problems. And yet there is no city council. It’s ironic that national elections are happening, but an elected local government does not exist. What is your view on this state of affairs? Will the chief minister’s ABIDe committee help fix it?
HTS: Not really. Wherever things are political in nature, if any work is related to political interest, quality suffers and also speed suffers. Deliberate delay will be caused by contractors so that they can come up with revised estimate for the expense that they say. So what is possible is, yes if the Chief Minister does not have any political ambitions in the development matters, if he considers the government as religious duty, then all these road development and innovation in infrastructure or beginning of infrastructure, every project will be completed in due time but what is happening is all this developmental works are not strictly subjected to quality control, there is poor quality execution. So what we need is more of quality roads than quantity roads.
Government cannot afford to give us first class roads because of multiplicity of such projects, and the like. Let them give us new roads which will last long, not potholes after a couple of months as it has been happening. So that way government should take serious notice and because of this, we don’t have any clear road map. In most projects we see a question mark hanging regarding the quality of work or length of time it will take to complete. So we need to check quality control and execute it with maximum efficiency. That is necessary.
VV: Can you name some of the projects your MPLADS funds were spent on over the last few years?
HTS: The main project was that of 13-km long road (Sangliana did not cite the name, it’s the Bagalur Road project) which I reconstructed, which was constructed some 25 years ago which had remained without repair for years, which had rendered the entire length of road into huge craters or potholes where even cyclists would not be able to go properly. So when that problem was presented before me, without much thought I promised that I will do the needful. This is the number one challenge when it came to the stage of asking extra money because the cost was Rs.1.5 crores which is much beyond my power. Now the MPLADS committee head will deliberate on this request three-four times. So they think there is a lot of corruption because of the cost. So definitely with god’s help it was cleared, saying Sangliana is known for his honesty. This particular road is an important road linking different towns in the area, villages in the area. So they cleared this project.
Construction was completed and the quality was that of very high standard. Even now not a single pothole has appeared and the places in and around that area, became so costly, so many millionaires emerged there because of this improved road. And the villages were requesting me to get water. So now water is supplied from borewell, overhead tank and pumps.
I also helped in putting up bus shelters. Compound walls in schools and also dormitory in Indira Gandhi hospital near NIMHANS.
VV: Some experts say the MPLADS funds are unconstitutional. They say public money is being given to MPs to illegitimately nurture their constituents using local development projects, which is really local government jurisdiction. Your response.
HTS: No I think that is not a very ethical way of looking at the subject. This is the money which is made available to the MPs purely for developing his constituency wherein the state government may not make it available to you to do the needful. And this is way of utilising MPs time for the benefit of the people of his constituency. It is rather a blessing, a great blessing which has been started which can prove a bad as well as a good MP in matters of execution of project, the quantity, etc.
For me this is really a god-given fund which I got and if this wasn’t there, there would not have been much scope for execution of my time. Rs.2 crores per year is the money given and in that you can bring happiness to a lot of people. If the MP is corrupt, if he tries to misappropriate or try to make money out of it through any kind of tactics he has to be condemned and he has to be denied of this privilege and he should even be booked for corruption. So as per me the amount should rather be doubled up or tripled up. We can really see MPs achievements and what he does for the people of his constituency.
So that kind of a theory is not really agreeable to me and it should be continued and it should rather be supervised strictly by the Standing Committee. We should not compromise with any misdeeds or any poor quality work or misappropriation of funds.
VV: Why did you join the Congress this time around (after expulsion from the BJP in 2008)? Why did you not join the Congress earlier itself, when you opted for the BJP?
HTS: I retired in 2003. I had no idea of joining politics as such. When the election time was nearing, the BJP people and others came and asked me if I am interested in joining their party. I did not give them any definite answer. The last party which came and invited me seriously happened to be BJP. They said they wanted me to be their candidate for Bangalore North where Jaffer Sharief has won six times, undefeated.
In a lighter vein, this was a manly constituency, where a giant, a political giant has to be there. I accepted the offer. I was taken to Delhi and inducted into BJP at the national level by the BJP president Mr Venkaiah Naidu and so I joined BJP without any intention of becoming a politician as such. I have been a social worker in a police uniform for 36 long years. So I thought parliament experience will be useful for my future social work and related activities. I joined the Lok Sabha after I won the contest here in Bangalore North.
During four years and four months period of my stay in BJP I made sincere efforts to strengthen and develop BJP by way of selecting the leadership, how BJP could be expanded to the nook and corner of the country. I had gone to meetings with key people including Sri Vajpayee, Advani and present president Mr Singh. I don’t know what system in BJP, they seem to be more concerned about their Hindutva issue. So I found myself to be not really effective or sort of, my suggestions were just listened to, there was no acting on any of the suggestions. I found a small percentage of anti-social elements among the Bajrang Dal, VHP, Senas and RSS had exploited the BJP in so many ways by taking law into their own hands and at the same time proclaiming that they belong to the BJP politically. So the political wings or political fronts of BJP, in this manner, were trying to make their presence seen and felt. The vandalized churches by destroying church property. They beat up people to the extent of being hospitalized. This way their activities were quite alarming.
During these five years or more we have seen such incidents taking place in many parts of the country. I may not be able to name all of them, for a few maybe Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc.
So that’s how I joined the BJP. I joined on their invitation, not on my request, ok.
In course of time when the nuclear deal agreement issue, the 123 agreement came up, where the BJP said this was initiated by them when there was NDA, and now when the time came to put the signature on the agreement, now they were Opposition party, they realised their name will not be included in the agreement, they will lose opportunity to get some political mileage for the coming elections. So they insisted for revisitation of the agreement saying we should put this that.
The point was this was initiated by the NDA and those who drafted this from the Indian side were all highly educated civil servants, scientists. For me there was no real need of revisitation of the agreement and delay the signing of it. By the time the bus would have gone and America may not be willing to come forward again to try.
When the voting was about to take place my consideration was, BJP only has party interest, that is to gain political mileage whereas the UPA’s interest is for the nation, to have enough of electricity for industrial and scientific development. So I said if this proposal is thrown out, then our future generation will curse us, their grandparents. Our children or grandchildren will curse us for not having done enough for them. So I said national interest should be put above party interest.
So I was suspended by the BJP. I was disqualified by the Speaker who held inquiry on this matter. So I was disqualified for eight months and suspended my privileges for that period. I did not work for UPA with the deal.
So that’s how it happened. When I was inducted into Congress party on 20th when (US President Barack) Obama was sworn in, the same day I was inducted in Delhi by Sonia Gandhi before the media. That day for the first time I said to her about my interest in standing in the Bangalore Central constituency which is a new constituency.
Then over a period of time many people tried to be candidate for Central. Ultimately Sonia Gandhi, true to her words, she respected my wish and gave me the Central constituency. Now 37 candidates are contesting.
VV: You have adopted the “Amar-Akbar-Anthony model of communal harmony”. How many inter-community meetings have you coordinated or organised in the last five years? Who are the groups you brought together?
HTS: Well, every communal related matter like those incidents of vandalisation in churches and beating of worshippers’ etc., like Bajrang Dal people in South Karnataka district where I had gone there in 2005-2006. I took three gentlemen along with me who belong to different religion like Hindu, Muslim and Christian. So this is the first Amar Akbar Anthony team I had created and taken. We all met on the spot. We were all widely acceptable to every community man because they name itself said our enquiry would be impartial. So this kind of impression was there. Now number of such meetings as such, I did not convene any meeting but when the need arises I will activate the team and help them find a solution to these problems.
Now this time, in this 2009 parliamentary elections I first feel that the need of the country is unity and then communal harmony without which no progress would be possible to make. So for implementation of every project you have to have the right atmosphere and be frank with the people. So I’ve been saying that Congress is secular in nature and in policy, best political party to foster unity among different communities in the country. So I’ll be using Amar Akbar Anthony. We need that in India. This is the outcome of our desire to make a united India so that we can leave our respective caste, religion issue, language problem at home, use it at home only, and when we come outside and mingle in day-to-day life, I strongly feel that we don’t need to look at people in terms of their religion, language or caste. We’ll just be men and women. I feel that this Amar Akbar Anthony is the right catchword. We want to popularise it and bring unity among ourselves because the saying goes that ‘United we stand, Divided we fall’.
VV: What are you giving your voters this time that you did not give them last time?
HTS: This time I’ve told them I will look into the need to improve the standard of education in the constituency and also organise talent hunting of bright students in the primary school level, or maybe any level, high school level and help them secure further education which they may not get to do because of poverty. So I thought these lucky students will be sponsored to study in professional courses. This will have a desirable effect in encouraging other students also to study hard and become eligible to get this kind of sponsorship. I feel that can do a lot.
The next area includes security in the city by networking the citizens through our neighbours like the neighbourhood team that I had started wherein you meet the neighbours together, take care of civic problems of all kind and any such community problems in their respective blocks. One of my deputy commissioner’s had told me that he had started it in his own block and he started saying hello to his neighbours and that they also responded, smiled. He said he has more friends now. These kinds of things I want.
Then another area (where government can help) is widows and orphans. I also want to promote communal harmony by using the catchword Amar Akbar Anthony so that people believe that the issue of their religion, caste, creed or language is to be kept in their respective homes. They should not bring such things in the open and making religious or spiritual clashes.
Outside you should just be Indians and be happy enough and you should try to bring people more close. We should all suffer together, give your blood to die for the nation, be ready to do so. This is the dream I have. So my election slogan Amar Akbar Anthony, unity is catching up. More people are talking about it now than before. So we call for unity and to come together and fight together in this election also. ⊕