Nalapada Ahamad Haris, Member of Legislative Assembly from Shantinagar, has been in news for all wrong reasons recently, due to the controversy related to his son. Going by media reports, he is in the danger of losing the Indian National Congress (INC) ticket this time, to contest from Shantinagar.
Haris has represented the constituency for last 10 years. Citizen Matters had interviewed him during his campaign in 2013 to understand his vision for the constituency. Since the term has ended, we went back to him, to understand how he spent last five years, what he could do and could not do..
Edited excerpts from the interview:
What was your vision, when you contested elections in 2008 and 2013?
I have been in social work and working closely with the people and society. I was a Youth Congress activist, and always wanted to do good things to society. Shantinagar came my way as I live here. It was a reserved constituency. It’s only 10 years that it became a general constituency. That’s how I got an opportunity here. It was a very underdeveloped constituency at that time. I had big dreams of bringing in change and making this a better place for people. By god’s grace for 10 years I have been able to do and achieve all those things. Lots of slums, people were in huts.. very bad condition. I’ve been able to build houses for them now. I got the Slum Board to work, and JNNURM programme from central government…
Which particular slums?
Almost all the slums in my constituency… Almost 95-99 percent are converted into houses. L R Nagar, Ambedkar Nagar. Only one pending is Maya Bazaar. But it has a dispute with military. The land military says belongs to them, and the government, slum board, military, central government.. There is some technical problem which is not allowing me to [act].. But it has to be done and it belongs to the people. The military has to take some other compensation from the government and give it to them.
So do you think you have been able to achieve the vision you had?
My vision is to make a better society where all human beings live happily. Of course, happiness comes when all of us have what we want. I know there’s some more to be done for this happiness to come. And of course to build a better society we need to build good atmosphere, we need to make people understand what is the importance [of education]. There are people who never understood the importance of education. Getting them to understand the basic concept of education was the biggest task for me. Today I’m able to say I have been able to transform a lot of people, into getting their children to educate, and to see a better light and life. If you take those, it needs time. It cannot happen in 10 years and all. It takes more time. But I have inspired them, I have motivated them, brought in a change. And poverty, of course. Fighting poverty, is [possible] only through education. Otherwise you do the same thing and you are still there. I feel happy that I have been able to convince people to come on that line. But the work still remains…
What have you done in the field of education?
We have a lot of government schools, which have been remodelled and renovated.. Basic infrastructure was not there. We have given that. We gave scholarship etc. I have not built new school buildings to put my name on it. I renovated all the government schools and gave furnitures. My MLA grant is all used for this and for drinking water. I also give scholarships to children – every year almost 5,000 children get scholarships through my N A Haris Foundation and other sources. Now the government is also giving scholarships. We are trying to help them out, to get educated. If they are educated then the society itself becomes better. Poverty will not be there. They can get some job and make a better living. I have pushed it, passionately. I continue to do it because that’s the only way we can bring the society from what it is to a better level. I believe in it and I am doing it.
A lot of people in your area complain about water issues, especially in L R Nagar and other slums. They say water is mixed with sanitary lines …
There are some areas where there is water contamination. In some areas people don’t understand – they themselves break the pipe, they themselves connect.. We have been educating these people. We have laid new lines almost everywhere, both sanitary and drinking water lines. There will be contamination in some areas where pipes cross.. if there is a small leak it gets transferred. Finding out the contamination point is a very big job. We have [setup] a lot of RO plants – 5 rupees and you get 20 litre water. Much before that I started the filter unit for borewell water and gave piped water to each house. I think in Bengaluru city, my constituency is [one] place where you get Cauvery water alternate days. In other places they get it once in four days. We are much better. In some areas there are issues… see, it’s a day-today usage issue. Water line is blocked or pipeline is chocked.. I have changed the lines laid in British era. So much of work has happened. But still there are works to be completed.
Some of the funds have been spent on borewell digging. What’s the success rate of borewells?
See, borewells are very good, very successful in my constituency.
How many feet below?
Bengaluru’s water level is a little low, it depends on the individual location. It’s okay, we have done, and it’s good. In summer, borewells are important for water. And water is important for everybody, so without water nothing can happen. So we have been trying to push and give more borewells and RO plants.
Anything for rainwater harvesting?
Yeah. We have spoken to many big establishments in my constituency to do rainwater harvesting. My constituency is a little low-lying area. We have all the stormwater drains and all. In a low-lying area rainwater harvesting is not a very good idea. Because already you are in a low-lying area. You dig three feet, you get water. Where will the harvested water go? Whatever possible, we are doing it.
What do you think are your failures, in last five years? You would have wanted to do a lot, but some of it you may not have been able to do – what are those?
I really don’t think there are failures as such, but I have bigger dreams that I plan to get done.
What are those?
Like, much better good schools for the children. Private sectors have beautiful schools for children in my constituency. So for government sector schools to come to that level of private schools..
But don’t you think staff shortage is the real problem in government schools?
Of course, I do agree with you, there is staff shortage. And the quality of the teachers, training for them.. Back ups for them.. We are doing with a lot of NGOs, train the teachers, we do a lot of things like that. So we need, it will come. It’s a system. Government is a system. Private is a system, they put it faster than the government system. But we are pushing it, making it happen. See, if we criticise somebody it doesn’t help us. Teachers do a lot of hard work. Now slowly we have to bring in change into them. We have to bring new digital technology. And these government schools education is free. But we have to get good quality in that. So this is my dream.
Health we are concerned. We want everybody to have cashless insurance schemes from the government. But they don’t have to worry about their health part, and good government hospitals where they can just go, get admitted and get treated. And good atmosphere – there also we need good training for the staff…
Any visible achievement in health field?
I have done a lot of work. We have maternity homes where we have started operation theatres.. With NGOs [we] have got ambulances. People go to private hospitals when natural delivery becomes a surgery. We want government maternity homes to help all these people. Health and education – these two are very important.
Then of course, making the constituency much more greener, and good quality water, quality air, these are all the dreams we have, it takes time. By the time we really make it fighting it out, fighting a lot of odds out, suddenly one day morning a tree is cut. We don’t know who has cut, what is it cut for. We see the tree dying, we fight for that. We have done a lot of things like that. I think at the end of the day this is what we need to do. So dream.. No failures as such because we have been able to do successfully the things that we have planned. We have a bigger dream of achievement. Roads..
In your 2013 interview with us, you had told us you wanted to lay ducts so that people don’t have to cut roads again…
Yeah yeah, that is what the TenderSURE is about. It has to happen everywhere. Today, BBMP comes, they will lay the road. Electricity fellow will come tomorrow and cut the road. Both are government departments. If I say ‘don’t cut’, there will not be power. Now as the duct system has come, utilities will go under the footpath. The road does not have to be cut. Footpaths are also bigger and better and utilities are going there. Any work has to happen it will happen there and roads are also safe for us. Footpath can be maintained well. I think TenderSURE and the Church Street – these are very unique roads in our city, state and country.
But the Church Street needs washing again and again, right?
That’s because you see, it’s a handcrafted road. It’s not like other roads. It’s our own stone, not any imported stone. Our own stones, our own design. So in little time, it will settle down and it will be done. Everything you have to maintain. Making is easy, maintenance of that is important right? We have to do it.
What about solid waste management in your constituency?
In this area, little more involvement of the public with the agency needs to happen. The problem in our Bengaluru city is that 24 hours the city is alive. Earlier the city was alive only in the day, but today the city does not sleep. It’s a 24-hour process. So I feel we need to have this cleaning and taking out the garbage for 24 hours. We have already put in our new dustbins, where the dustbin has digital control. When the dustbin is full, it gives the message.
Is it happening?
Yeah. It has started, we have already installed in my constituency. Lot of bins have been installed and they are working in Austin Town, M G Road, Domlur and other places. They are just fixing it. We got it only two-three months ago, they have finished the work. Once the dustbins are full, it will send a message. They will come, clear it and make it empty.
But don’t you think it scuttles the court order of 2-bin-1-bag system?
This is also 2-bin-1-bag no?
But people are not using it that way I guess, people are mixing it again.
See, people’s involvement is very much important. Until and unless segregation does not happen at your end, what anybody can do is the next question. We have the segregated waste that the door to door fellow comes in the morning and takes it, and in the afternoon you have more garbage that you don’t want to keep in the house, this is the best way. People have the habit of throwing it out. This helps us to control that. All black spots could be reduced. Segregation happens at the destination where they take it. Garbage is not on the road and it is much cleaner and neater. Basic concept of urbanisation is what people need to understand. People come to Bengaluru city from rural areas where they throw the waste in the fields and forget it. But in Bengaluru you can’t throw it and forget it. This sense has to come into everybody. It’s coming in slowly. In the years to come all the things will fall in place and things will be much better.
What do you think of citizen engagement in your area? Are people approaching you and getting things done?
I am with people and people are with me. I’m approachable 24X7. All the RWAs are directly working with me. All are connected with me on WhatsApp, message and email.
All the wards?
All the wards, all the RWAs. We have plenty of RWAs in my constituency. And all of them are in touch with me and I’m working with all of them. It’s very good. Until and unless the citizens get involved, you cannot expect any development. As an MLA I have got crores of rupees worth work allotted for the constituency. Now, can I go personally and stand, or can I be there to supervise every work? Not possible. Then we give those details to the RWAs and ask them to get the work done. They do it. Whatever happens in your locality, your involvement is important. You will also understand how it has to be done and maintained.
So, last 10 years of my experience is all about citizen engagement. Citizens are good and we have taken care of lot of things. But see, sanitary, drinking water, streetlight, roads, drains, are all used in day today life. Wear and tear and repair is a continuous process. You can’t say we have done everything and nothing will happen.
People in some areas complain that you are not approachable..
I’m sorry about that. If they have not approached me, I’m sorry. Whoever have approached me knows [I am] available to them. Anyone can come, my office is open from morning to night.
What’s happening with Ejipura housing project?
Work is going on. That should have been completed by now. That was our commitment. But some associations and people went to court, they put case, and stopped the work. Now the work is going in full swing. In another year they will get beautiful houses with two lifts – this is the first EWS housing with lifts. People will be happy for the houses.
I also told the chief minister you must pay rental amount to all these people. It’s being delayed. It’s a good project, there is a little delay because some miscreants wanted it to be delayed. Poor people are getting houses, so they should not have done it actually. These are houses for the authorised occupants, but I got 900 houses sanctioned for unauthorised occupants at Sulikunte. Some of them asked for houses here itself and went to the court. They are unauthorised, still they are being taken care of. Nowhere in the history such thing would have happened – I have taken care of the authorised and unauthorised people, with 900 houses at Sulikunte and 1520 houses here.
This is delayed because those people went to court. You should question those people, why you went, what was your problem. When original allottees were getting it, they should have supported it and kept quiet. Whole idea of removing it and doing it fast was because all illegal activities were taking place there. Ladies suffered the most, they were not safe and secure there. Nothing could be done, that was the situation. We said it should happen and got it done, it’s happening. We cannot question the judiciary [for not allowing it].
Read our 2013 interview with N A Haris: I got Sulikunte project sanctioned for EWS evictees)
Read our series on the Ejipura project: Hundreds of Ejipura residents thrown out of homes
Which area of the governance, or which department in the government interests you? What’s your favourite?
The best department in the government is the Department of Education, because that’s the one that builds the next generation, hence important. Children, Education, Building a better society, giving the sense that we Indians are all one, that is what the Education Department has to do. Once people are educated, entire outlook of the society will change. But without education we can’t understand anything. Even today, people come, give false promises, cheat them and go away, because they don’t have education. Once you are educated people understand what you are talking.
And poverty is what we have to fight. How do you fight poverty? You cannot give something and fight. You have to give them a way to make their living better. That’s possible only through education. I work very closely with that department to see that every child comes up in life which is important. Every parent and every child has a dream. We need to give them space for that to happen. I’m able to do that. Many children have become doctors and engineers. They come back and tell, sir, because of you we could do it. I feel very happy and nice about it.
In your MLA LAD spend data, there are some names and some amount put in front of them. What‘s that? There is no detail.
No no.. everything has a detail. I cannot spend that money on my own. I have to give it to Zilla Panchayath. Only Zilla Panchayath can give that money. So it is only allotted on a work. It’s not I who do it.
But was there some compensation or something that you had to pay?
No.. no. Nothing. Compensation cannot be given from that fund. It can be only used for permanent development activity only.
Do you want to look at the data?
If you can show I can tell what’s in it.
(He looks at the data and says he has no idea. He promises to look at the files and get back to us. See the data here.)
What about promotion of public transport in your constituency?
We are doing that. You can see a lot of footpaths. Cycling is yet to catch up. We are lazy people, we don’t believe in cycling and walking. We want to get down and get up, that’s our attitude. Tendersure is connecting to Metro. Once Metro is done fully, we will all start walking.
When we travel to any foreign country, everyone walks, takes metro and goes. Here also once metro connectivity comes, there are good footpaths, hence automatically walking will start. It’s very healthy. Facility should be there, then people will start using them.
We are also trying to build some bus stands, we are asking BMTC to give smaller buses to go into small gullies which people can use, so that they don’t have to buy two-wheeler where there is not even parking space. If there is good public transport, personal vehicles will not be needed. We are pushing for it.
Parking in schools is a problem for local residents, because there is no space. Entire road gets choc-o-bloc [during] school time.
I personally promote public transport. If I have to go to Vijayanagar, I use Metro. In 15 minutes you reach Vijayanagar.
What’s your view on corruption in public life?
We totally condemn it.
Is it possible to be in public life and not be corrupt?
Yes, why not? It is possible. We are all there for you to take as example. We are not corrupt. That’s what we need. That is where people have to understand. When people elect corrupt people, and expect more corruption, that becomes a problem. You have to elect good people and then expect this. It will happen. This government also has been – you see, compare this to the last BJP government. You have seen so many scams coming up. You see this government’s five years. You cannot name any scam or anything that happened during this government. Our government has not supported corruption, we have been against corruption. Our Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also given a good track record with good administration and no corruption allegations.
How much money does an MLA get per month as salary and expenses?
Salary is some 60-70,000 only. Total about a lakh.
Is it enough to manage the constituency?
(Laughs…) Less spoken about it, the better. Most people feel money given to MLAs is more. You know today’s world, how difficult it is [to manage], so.. I don’t know, I don’t want to make any comments on it. Because I don’t live on that money.
But to manage expenses…
How can we manage, in 20-25,000, you tell me? You know how much money you need to manage one person, how can you manage a constituency? I don’t have any comments on that.
Do you think it should be increased?
I don’t think it should be increased.
For a person like you who has varied business interests like tourism or healthcare, how easy or how difficult is it to not mix up both business and public life?
I have done it no? You can see. I don’t have too many businesses, I have a few. You need to live, you work for that. We have businesses that are managed by professionals. Some of them have been rented or leased to some people. I also have some plantation, I am a farmer. Thus we manage. See, it is with passion that I’m doing MLA’s work. I want to do something for the society, give it back to the people, take care of them, make them better… I cannot depend on my political career for my living, so I have my own set up, and I work. That has nothing to do with this. I have people to help me run them.
What do you think of your son’s incident, and the impact of it on your political career?
See, it should not have happened. And we are in a society where children… you know about it all. What’s happening, what happened and all, I don’t support it also, and I have condemned whatever has happened. I have made my son surrender and the law will take its own course. Now the matter is in the court, and the court take its course. We have not done anything.
Will it have any political implications?
See, my people know me well. I’ve been with them for past one decade. They’ve been interacting with me. 24×7 I work for my people. And they know what I am. So I don’t see any impact on me. But it’s very paining that the opposition and others take up certain things that are not actually relevant to development of the people or society. We have to take on somebody on development work, on what has not happened in the constituency, or what could have been done and not done, or something that will affect public at large. But hypocrisy is the highest in our society. There are people whose children have done worse than all these things, and they talk about these smaller things.
Will you be getting ticket this time?
100%. Why not? I’m a two-time MLA, I’m a Congress man from my student days till now. This is my family and they will protect me and they are with me, I have absolutely no questions about it at all. And it’s my son who has done a mistake, not me. So the party has to look at me, no? I have surrendered him and the matter is in the court, let it come from there. What has Haris done? I’m doing my job no? I’m working for people. MLA’s work – I have done perfectly.
Because I concentrated more on my MLA work my family and other things would have taken a hit – bad on me, I will also rectify that.
Is power important for people to do things for people and the constituency? Can you do anything without power?
I don’t know – you see, power is not everything. Your commitment to develop society and do the job is important. But if you are not the representative, you don’t have the chance to do what you and people would do together. Then you have to only social work.
Does being in Vidhana soudha give you more power?
What you do with that is more important. You want to develop your constituency, you need to be there. You want to develop your people, you need to be there, If you are not an MLA, you cannot do all those things that mean development. Maybe you can do some health camp or other smaller things to people, but you can’t do this kind of work – revolution in education, getting water supply, sanitary, waste segregation – all these need to be done and we can put our pressure when we are elected representative. What will you do if you win next time?
We have already put three-four bigger programmes for next five years, upgradation of a lot of government schools into colleges. It’s very important. Many children cannot travel far. We have schools where there’s space, we will upgrade them to colleges. There are colleges that can be upgraded too. So give children more scope to get educated and employed. That’s my biggest dream for next five years.
And also health care. I want to put in lots of efforts to upgrade two maternity hospitals in my area with good facilities. Two-three big community halls where weddings and programs can happen, they will be affordable to people. Upgradation of water lines in certain areas needs to be done. When Cauvery next stage comes, we have to build reservoirs.
For an MLA, is there any difference between people who voted for him or those who didn’t vote for him?
Nothing. When I won the first election in Shantinagar, I said that everyone in the constituency belongs to me. People who voted and didn’t vote, I’m the MLA for everybody. Everyone can approach me, to get their job done.
In case if you lose, either by way of losing the elections, or by way of not getting the ticket, what will happen?
Both will not happen. I’m a positive person, I believe in the Creator, I believe in my people, so both are not going to happen.
What have you learnt in politics all these years? What’s your highest ambition in politics?
(Laughs..) I don’t know… we have to be on the ground, that is what I am doing personally. We are with the people. You be good to people, do good, people give it back. You give one, they give back 100. You do good things, they are with you. Take everyone together. Don’t differentiate between religion, language, and build that humane bond between each person… that’s what I have learnt.
My ambition is to reach the highest position in public life. Because I can do more things when I’m there. We’ll be able to change the way everything happens. Today just being an MLA I’m able to do so much to my constituency. If I’m in a better position, I can do it to the entire city, entire state or entire country!