In Episode 20 of Spotlight with Sandhya, Police Officer Bhaskar Rao, currently the Additional Director General of Police- Internal Security, Karnataka, says “I love losers, because I was one.” Having been a loser in academics through school had made him the butt of ridicule, but his liking for sports and games kept him in good spirits and ensured he always had the company of young people. These helped instil a lifelong commitment to fitness and the ability to bond with people, and helped deal with failure. 
Courage and confidence are qualities are developed over a period of time, and parents can help instil these by giving children the freedom to make mistakes. He has actively used his learnings in instilling esprit de corps in the police and discusses a wide range of subjects from gender equality and empowerment to community policing in an interview with Sandhya Mendonca.
Watch the interview or Listen to it. For a longer read, the transcript of the interview is. 

Bhaskar Rao with women police officers in Bangalore

Sandhya Mendonca talks with Bhaskar Rao in ‘Spotlight with Sandhya’  – Transcribed by Shouq Alghamdi

Sandhya : Hello, and welcome to a very special edition of spotlight with Sandhya. The spotlight today is on a man in khaki who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s a fitness enthusiast, a feminist, and a strong believer in compassionate and community policy. We are here today in the office of Mr. Bhaskar Rao, who was formerly the Police Commissioner of Bangalore. And he’s now the Additional Director General of Internal Security for Karnataka. Good evening, Mr. Rao, thank you for inviting us to your office. We’re very privileged to be here in this heritage building.

Bhaskar Rao: It is a very very old building this building is about 116 years old, and we don’t have the documents as such, but we were told that this used to be the mortuary of the Britishers and iceboxes  used to be kept  used to be kept  for  the bodies, used to be kept here before being taken to the  Hosur Road cemetery for burial, for the British officers and the British of the well-heeled Britishers were occupying a position.  The Hosur Road cemtery started with them. So this used to be some kind of  mortuary for them.

I hope there are no spirits here .

No, we have bigger spirits here, (laughs)

Incidentally, I think both of us went to the same colleges, right? National College  and  St. Joseph’s. So at what point did you decide that you want to become a police officer?

Initially, I didn’t want to start being a police officer. I wanted to be a part of public life. So at that time I contested an election and I was the president of the National College students union.. So I wanted to isolate my  college from any kind of law and  order problems, nobody should come and disturb us. A lot of students organizations  used to drag us, to come to see Ministers , to come to Raj Bhavan,  we’ll do this march. And so what I did was, I got a very smart idea from a friend of mine. So I invited the police commissioner, Mr. PG Harlankar as the chief guest for  a  function. And then I kept in touch with him. So I used to get insulated from this and let mr. Jayprakash Nayak who was assistant commissioner of police in Jayanagar.   

So he used to also be very helpful about that. So working closely with people has always been my forte. Then when I finally got selected in the third attempt into the civil services, I was allotted, I got 101 rank and I was in the foreign service. So I could have been  in foreign service and took one step down because it is first IAS then  foreign service and then  police service. So I could have been in  foreign service, that’s a very beautiful job, very luxurious job, moving around, touring around all countries, wearing expensive clothes, , meeting the well-heeled, but that would not have suited my nature. . So from then on, I always had a penchant for working closely with people, especially with those who are lost in life are those who are being losers. I love losers because I was a loser. I was not so good.

At what point  were you a loser? From everything that I have noticed…

This is your yardstick. My yardstick is…,see, I didn’t do well in school. And,  I had to repeat classes, everybody likes to move around with the smarter people over there. So till 10 standard, by and large, I was a  loser And I was able to, I got  only about 59% and I only got in the third list in Joseph’s college of arts and science. I was able to get that too, because I studied in a Jesuit institution. From then on iI gradually improved upon myself to start getting better and better. I may have been a loser as regards academics, but when it was outdoors, I had my own roots, the riskiest of the riskiest things, jumping into water, because we grew up on the banks of the River Gandak and River Ganga. tudies may have not been the yardstick to measure me, but in other areas I  was  sufficient.  I did a lot of cycling when I was in Bihar and my first cycling for cycling trip was between Patna and a place called Arrah, about  70 kilometers away.

So what would you say to any young woman or young man who wants to join the police force? What do you think that they should be doing to get into the police force?

Most important is physical fitness. Courage, the most important quality of a police officer. We don’t want internet champions or people who find solutions on the internet. You should be in a position to stand in front of people and address them and create confidence. How do you do this? You do this by being a part of a lot of extracurricular activities. When you were in school, in college. I was a part of NCC. I was in NSS. Then I had a very peculiar organization in our school. It was called LTS leadership training service. I was a part of leadership training service. There’s one of my passions that in future, I would like to start an Institute called LTS because there is no leadership at home itself. People abdicate the responsibility. There’s no leadership at the office level. There’s no leadership at the political level. It’s all become self centered.

So as you ask me, the qualities of leadership get developed only when you are outside the class, I was doing something like NCC, NSS, and playing games, meeting friends, not online, not virtual, actual, real friends  over there. Then you play with them. You play street games with them and  go out and engage in competition. So these are the things which build a lot of resilience inside you and courage and internal strength, because you are not scared of losing. Today’s children are very scared of losing. And in police, I tell all the police recruits, our job is like Sania Mirza, and Virat Kohli. If they make a mistake, you  realize in 15 seconds.  If you make a mistake as a police officer,  within 15 seconds,  you’ll know, I made a mistake. The media will come to know, the judiciary will come to know, my boss will come to know, and most important, my subordinates will come to know, I made a mistake. So then you have to operate in such a way you need lots and lots of courage and confidence to face and take such split second decisions. These are all not overnight qualities, these  you develop over a period of time. And parents play an important role. And I’m very happy my parents gave a lot of freedom.  Freedom to commit mistakes is what we don’t allow our children to be.

So how much time do you get for your personal fitness? I have heard that you’re a huge fitness enthusiast. So how much time do you get for that?

I was a fitness enthusiast, but ever since I’d been commissioner of police for the last year and a month ago, fitness has definitely taken a beating and now I have  a start once again. But when I was in the state reserve  police, we were able to have cycling programs, that to connect it with the, promoting what we call, the  khakiness, of   promoting the esprit de corps of the department. Because when I was in case KSRP, we passed through a very unfortunate period with a lot of resignations, suicides, then, disinterest,  low morale and, people falling apart, not having regard for leadership, et cetera. So we got together and we did a cycling program from Bidare to Bangalore and,  over a hundred of us were over there. And then we haltedt only at our own battalions. We did 1700 kilometers across Karnataka and we refused to take any kind of help from anybody else.

And we wanted to be self sufficient. So every day when our people used to arrive at any town, the people of the battalion, the families of the battalion, were supposed to welcome us with aarti  and traditional welcome. And then we planted trees. We visited masjids. Then we did visited temples.. So it was an attempt to make everybody come together. And we had KSRP written all over our body and we visited schools. Also, we spoke to college students. So it was a lot of learning for us.   We were also telling the people of Karnataka that police is very friendly and all the time we are with you,  whenever you want we are there with you, that could speak on behalf of anybody else. That was far as theexpedition  was concerned. We did another program exclusively for the girls. There was a 500 kilometer program from Belgaum to Bangalore, when my wife also cycled the entire routeWe had four women IAS officers who cycled with us. the test. Then we had two women of police and fire inspectors, women inspectors, who joined in.

Nice. So did it help rebuild the morale of the force? of the KSRP?  hat was the intention of setting off on this expedition.

Later on, women  were recruited in  KSRP. KSRP was basically a male dominated force but  with increase in law and order  problems, where women were are also at the forefront. So when we recruited thesewomen from north Karnataka, these girls came from very, very poor famililies. Some of these girls couldn’t even afford to have a luxury of a toilet also inside their house.. So when these girls came with us, we got them trained very well, very sturdy training for them. And these girls, we put them through a lot of adventure sports to build confidence, and they did river rafting in group, and they did a lot of rock climbing in Badami. And then most importantly, in Hiriyur where the huge Lake is there, we did a lot of kayaking and river rafting, and these girls who had not seen a well in their life properly, they were jumping into the water, just 200 feet deep. So such was their confidence. And we taught them public speaking. We taught them to scream,  taught them to shout, the inner strength of a woman comes out and looking at her other people should get inspired. So that was what we intended to do. And in KSRP we had one more advantage. My wife has always been selling, telling me that you are sitting in a position of authority. You must do something for women’s security, women’s safety, and women’s empowerment. Two  women commandants joined our force. And I requested them that they should command the parade.  Initially they were a little horrified because commanding a parade  needs a lot of discipline, et cetera. Both these women, IPS officers, they commanded the parade and they earned the appreciation. . I really commend their commitment.

 And of course the KSRPis a very disciplined force. We all stood behind those two girls. So it does mean a lot as you mentioned, empowerment and other area, which I am very fond of, is  empowering the bottom of the pyramid. The bottom of the pyramid anywhere is the strongest and the safest, and they don’t mess around. So if you empower them and if you make them feel important, we make them feel good. It is always in the interest of the organization. If you try to weaken them, humiliate them, ignore them,  we will be doing a great peril because if the bottom of the pyramid becomes weaker and weaker, the top cannot last very, very long. Even as  the Additional DG of KSRP or as a commissioner of police are any hat that I’ve worn previously. I’ve always been a proponent that the aam aadmi  or  the common person who is the one for whom we all exist, should be empowered, should be given his due importance, should be appreciated, should be rewarded and should be skilled. Then only any organization or the country will always be very, very strong.

This is a wonderful lesson in leadership, Mr. Rao, and talking about leadership, you know, you see a lot of people and a lot of organizations struggling to implement gender equality, but you’ve been one of the people who’ve been very comfortable doing it, and you’ve done it very quietly. If I’m right. I think our state has quite a number of women police officers serving currently. And even in our city, as the commissioner, you were responsible for putting in a lot of women in senior positions. So how did you go about doing it? It would be interesting to learn.

When I joined the police force in 1990, there were only two senior women police officers here. The first was Mrs. Jija Harisingh i, who went on to become the director general of police and she retired, then the other senior officer of 1982 batch was Mrs. Prabha Rao, she went away on deputation to the  government of India. Later  on the third woman to join the Karnataka police was my batch mate Sarita. Now Sarita is in Afghanistan. Then of course, today we have a huge number of women officers at all levels, that was a woman officer at the level of additional DGP. Our Director General of Police Neelamani Raju was the first woman DG & IGP of police. 

And she  ran the state very well for two years, with a  tough  and an iron hand. And so when you look at these achievements, I served  under her. I always felt that when a woman is empowered, a family gets empowered and with a family, a society gets empowered, and the city also gets empowered. As a commissioner of police, it was my singular honour that out of the 21 deputy commissioners, whom I had, I had about 10 women deputy commissioners. So they were in all  the zones, they were in the traffic, they were in intelligence, they were in administration and everywhere. So constantly we have to empower them, merely recruiting them and giving a job is not enough. We have to ensure that they are physically fit, they’re emotionally fit, they’re mentally fit, by  keep giving them opportunities We can’t simply say, you must be fit , emotionally fit or physical fit.

We have to keep on creating situations where they willingly embrace this kind of fitnesses, willingly embrace emotional fitness, willingly embrace mental fitness building. So if you have sports, parade, et cetera, and make them participate over there. Even after the childbirth, et cetera, when they tend to put on weight, et cetera, they fall into this, and amazing fitness women men have exhibited. We have a women  personnel who are after  childbirth,  have run races  and  beaten men also. And then we have to keep giving them opportunities. imply making them sit in a police station is not enough.  Simply telling them ‘you be a sentry, You answer a radio call or you take down dictation over there’. You have to give them an opportunity to interact, take decisions, face problems that makes them very, very strong, whatever. And if a woman is around in the police station, a lot of decency that prevails over there. If you leave it as a  all men’s politician over there, it’s complete mayhem and becomes behind. And gender sensitization is not something, a fashion that we need to embrace, but it is very necessary for a healthy growth of society.

And also, I think one of your the agenda that you had adopted was community policing, right? So can you talk a little bit about how effective has it been?

Who is the community? The community is the bottom of the pyramid of a huge nation. I have often come across situations as a police officer, as a deputy commissioner in Bangalore city or as a superintendent of police. People don’t know who their neighbors are. They’re so busy. They are so occupied that they don’t know who their neighbors are. That’s why we need CCTVs. My grandmother used to make a joke, If women used to be sitting outside their houses, we did those days when CCTV was not a word, also, she used to say, they’re all CCTV sitting over here. So community policing is a concept which we drove when I was commissioner of police called ‘hello neighbor’. So this was an absolutely non-financial project, a project that not only Bangalore city, but any city in the world can takeover.  It is ‘know who is in front of you, who is behind you, who is in the left of you, is in the right of you, who is above you or who is below you.’

  If you have their names and their telephone numbers, you don’t have to disturb them. At least, if you really know who is around you, the city becomes much safe. Apartments become much safe. Neighborhoods become very, very safe. And  when I interacted with the resident welfare associations,  I used to tell them, you must celebrate functions together, celebrate puja, celebrate Ganesha, celebrate Christmas or celebrate Eid. And it might people together so that you get to know who is who. And if people are connected with each other, they’re able to keep a watch on each other, help each other and stand for each other. And that drastically reduces crime. And I’ve seen as a police officer, crimes take place in cities only because of anonymity, because  I havecome across instances where there has been a burglary in progress, neighbors are watching, but they don’t want to call up anybody.

See these are things that happen over a period of time. You have to sow the seeds of faith that, ‘look, I respect you, I have faith in you’. That faith and respect has to come out like a seedling and grow. So trust always begets trust, love, begets love and concern begets concern. That is what is the cornerstone of community policing. So this concept, what you mentioned is community policing, we were encouraging more and more people should come for community walk, walk together, celebrate festivals, speak to each other, resolve things together,.. So that was the cornerstone of community policy. And it spilt over into the communal harmony also, because  the one whole year, which I had the privilege of being  Bangalore city police commissioner, we went through such traumatic  rollercoaster situations, but because police kept itself connected with the community, we did not have a single instance of even o stone pelting. Also, you must have seen the CAA and the havoc  created by social media,   the fake news. And then the corona pandemic. the police remained connected with the people connected with the community. So that’s why we had absolutely no problems anywhere throughout the whole of the year, for which I’m beholden to the people of Bangalore, as well as to my younger colleagues,

From being in charge of the security of the city, you’re now in charge of the security of the whole state. And it sounds like a very challenging position. Please let us know what exactly do you do as head of internal security.

 We all work under the director general of police, me and my team, we work in the background. I have several verticals within this department to begin with. We do the policing of the coast. We have a coastal security police, which you can see that there is a coastal security police. And then we have the anti-naxal force, which extends its activities all over the state, wherever naxal activity is there. And we get inputs from other parts of the country and we act upon them. Then we have the Karnataka state industrial security, KSISF. I run a center for counter terrorism r called the CCT or the Garuda force. Then apart from that, within the internal security division, we have a lot of activities which we monitor of terror activities and activities which are detrimental to the interest of the nation.

That’s quite an extensive portfolio that you’re handling when I for one feel quite safe, knowing that there are so many safeguards, and I’m very happy to have this opportunity to interact with you. A police officer who has  both sense and sensibility.