His unexpected defeat in the 2013 Assembly elections from Koratagere in Tumkur (though the Congress Party swept a clear majority under his leadership) kept him away not just from the chief minister’s post but also denied him a berth in the state cabinet for nearly two-and-a-half years. But two months after KPCC chief Dr G. Parameshwara took oath of office as the home minister, he says he has little time to waste. He created a flutter when he walked into the Madivala and Whitefield police stations for a chit chat with the constables. His recent visit to the CID office to hold a review meeting surprised all as he was the first home minister in the last 12 years to visit the CID head office. He ordered computer savvy cops to be immediately posted in police stations located in the IT hubs, and was spotted inspecting a mock drill of commando trainee at Vidhana Soudha. The Home minister, in an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, shares shares his plans on combating terror, traffic crisis, revamp of Karnataka police, the intolerance debate among other issues.
*Is Karnataka prepared to tackle terror and cyber crimes? *
With Bengaluru on the global map, the threat perception is greater than ever and we simply cannot afford to have a police force which is inadequate in numbers, poor in skills and low on spirit. New-age challenges like terrorism, cyber and organised crimes are staring us in the face. We are tracking the social media to check radicalisation of youth. We were able to track down people like Khasmi as it is an ongoing surveillance.
Our Garuda force has 110 young men (below 25 years), who have undergone combat training for a year. A retired brigadier is training them and they are now on par with NSG in their ammunition and arms training. We want to increase their number and they will be alert 24/7, guarding sensitive locations. Terror threat is serious. This first response team within the state police is capable of containing terrorist till NSG arrives from either Hyderabad or Chennai. A centre of excellence will be set up to train our cops in advance techniques. Once the trained cop is above 35, he will be moved to the regular force and young ones will be inducted. So we will have an alert and quick response team. The department has identified 300 hotspots like shopping malls, administrative blocks, monuments, IT companies, irrigation and power plants, and tourist spots, where terrorists may strike. Our surveillance has been stepped up. Our cyber wing is expanding and is assisting in investigations regularly.
*You are perhaps the first home minister to walk into a police station and also chat up policemen. What made you do it? *
Home is a tough department. I walked into the Madivala police station (which reports highest number of cases). My visit surprised the constables (no senior officer was present), but they readily shared their problems with me. I looked at their beat reports, station registers and insisted that it should be exhaustive as they are crucial to better policing and perhaps cracking cases too. I noticed DCPs, who are supposed to visit the stations regularly, sign the visitor book, give instructions to improve the performance but had failed to do so. I believe, a good work culture starts from the top, and trickles down to the lower cadres.
*Was it shocking to find cops in IT city were computer illiterate? *
I went to Whitefield police station as it is in the heart of the IT hub which houses 500 companies. I discovered that the sub-inspector did not know how to operate a computer. How will they be of any help to an expat or professional reporting a crime? I picked computer savvy cops and posted them here. Now we plan to train all the cops. The department is also recruiting 15,000 constables (8,000 already recruited). The training module will now include computer training and not just IPC and CrPC. In Davangere, I found that none of the policemen including the SP used email to communicate. I have asked each of them to create an email id and start using it as it is simple, faster and helps maintains a record too. We must give them time to change their mindset and style of functioning.
*Isn’t corruption demoralising the forces? *
I agree it is a bane. Sadly, the system works that way. A constable gets a take-home salary of Rs 12 k to 15 k. With this, he has to rent a house, pay school fees and run the household too. The system is making him corrupt. I have asked for a comparative data of all states to revise the salaries. The sanctioned posts are one lakh and the vacancies of 25,000. Of this, 55000 are constable grade. They need better facilities. A reasonable salary package, and welfare schemes like police canteens, Griha—the police housing scheme with two-bedroom modern apartment complexes, are coming up in the city and across the state. This will help the cops. A police hospital on the lines of the Army’s Command hospital, a hi-tech multi specialty hospital, is on the cards.
*Why do people in Bengaluru avoid going to a police station. Even your FIR kiosks in malls has not helped. *
The general perception that cops are rude should change. My challenge is to make the force people-friendly. I spoke to them about the need to be courteous at all times. The police told me that nobody had spoken to them about these things till now. Lack of accountability is widening the rift within the department. Drills are not held every day, only assembly and attendance are taken care of daily. Every five years, we plan to have a refresher course based on the age group. This will make them more healthy and confident.
City’s traffic crisis is scaring away investors. IT companies are moving out. Is Bengaluru prepared for odd-even experiment like Delhi?
At this point, we must improve public transport before we compel people to switch to public transport. They should feel it is better than their bike or car, and help save time and money. With Metro phases I and II, five lakh people are expected to move over to Metro trains. With Phase III ready, we expect 20 lakh people to shift. We will have point-to-point buses. Within the available infrastructure, we are working on diversions and one-ways. The Traffic Management System is monitoring 179 junctions in real time. They can zoom in to read the vehicle registration number. They can monitor the traffic bottlenecks. The Silk Board junction takes 20 minutes to cross. I told the traffic chief to reduce the time by half within a month by deploying more men during the peak hour. We will recruit 2,800 men for Bengaluru alone to tide over staff shortage. Every station will have 25-30 men, which will reduce the pressure. As for investments, we must get people who invest and not just promise. We are working on it. Already 7-8 countries have shown interest in our Invest Karnataka meet, along with 150 big companies. We will do better than previous years.
Is women and children safety an issue?
I took over in October. In November, there were only 15 cases of chain snatching against 200, reported normally in a month. Effective policing like going on beats and night patrol is crucial. I told my men I might go on night rounds. So every one is alert! I will perhaps go on night beat to keep my men motivated. In another instance, I held a meeting of 500 officers of all ranks in December and warned them that Christmas, Hanuma Jayanti, and Eid had all come together. I made it clear that I would not tolerate a single untoward incident. It worked. It all passed off peacefully. Sometimes it takes one stern warning to set the system to work.
*Bangla refugees, former Bodo militant, IS or Al Qaeda operatives , fringe elements...all find Bengaluru a safe haven. Your comments. *
Bengaluru has been peaceful. But in the last decade, the situation has changed. Many organisations are based in the city. They don’t strike but they do their planning here as nobody questions them. But now, we are monitoring them with inputs from IB and many are under the scanner.
*Do you believe there is growing intolerance? *
Tipu Jayanthi saw some unrest but only in Madikeri. After the Afzalpur stone pelting, Madikeri saw lathicharge and two deaths, which is unfortunate. Kuttappa died and it became volatile. The communal clashes has been there for a long time. Year by year, because of growing population, the media, easy access to information, television visuals, the incidents are more visible. Both sides (majority and minority communities) are equally becoming aware and active. You may call it intolerance or friction, but it is there. We have to contain it...tell them by force or convince them to maintain peace. Fear of the law has to be instilled. All this while, law enforcing authorities might have been soft, but not any longer. We will spare none.
*Is the majority community drifting away from the Congress with increasing appeasement of the Ahinda? *
In our party, at least 19 Vokkaligas and 24 Lingayats have won in the last polls. Now, is that called shrinking support from majority communities? Of course there will be marginal variations (in majority votes) and we as a national party are worried. We do make course corrections. Every political party is indulging in appeasement and caste politics. But the Congress leadership is not encouraging it. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi don’t even talk about it. In a democracy, caste should disappear especially because the younger generation is watching us. Our government’s performance has been good. Our focus is on speeding up programme implementation as we have less than three years to go. The TP and ZP polls is like mini Assembly polls and I am sure we will get better results this time.
How do you explain the demand for a dalit CM in your party?
dalit CM issue might be in discussion but it has nothing to do with reality. It is always for the high command to decide who will be the CM. Now, why should anybody consider me and Kharge only as a dalit. I don’t think that should be the criterion. When I was abroad, nobody bothered about who I was. I was only a student and only my performance in studies and research mattered. I am lucky to be enjoying the confidence of the high command. I go by their advice and direction rather than complain. Positions come and go. It does not matter. If the party is strong, you can ask for a position. I look at it as a sincere partyman that party should come to power again.