Opportunities Today :- July 2005 Issue

Interview with D. SIVANANDAN Commissioner of Police, Thane


D. Sivanandan is the dynamic super cop with a human face. He was last featured in Opportunities Today when he was the Joint Director of the CBI (Western Zone) of the CBI. Since then he has moved on to be the Commissioner of Police, Nagpur and currently he is the Commissioner of Police, Thane. Mr Sivanandan has always been a cop with a difference and here he tells us his experiences of dealing with ever changing scenario in crime from hard core criminals to white collar crimes and cyber crimes. He also shares his secret of how to be stress free and keep the motivational levels high of the police force against all adversities. He is truly the human face of the police force and this was experienced by our Editor Subhash Motwani who visited the Commissioner's Office at Thane to see the changes he has brought around in the way of life of the Police and so also the people of Thane.

How is your role different as Commissioner of Police Thane vis-à-vis Commissioner of Police - Nagpur and your earlier stint in the Police Force in Mumbai?
Mumbai is know to be the residence of “Mahalaxmi” or “great wealth”, so the main focus of the crime is to do with money and money related matters. In Mumbai, it is mostly organized crime and also economic crimes which runs into thousands of crores on any given day. Whereas in Nagpur, there is no productivity, no industry, no problems related to that. Basically, there is mass violence and mob violence in Nagpur. It is a Madhya Pradeshi or Central India culture where people come together in matters which they are not directly involved in. They set the vehicles, the police chowki on fire. Pyrotechnics is what is special about Nagpur. So even the Police Force is more geared towards that. 

When did you come as the Commissioner of Thane and what were the areas of crime which are common to this region?
I resumed office about 3 months back. Thane is basically like Mumbai, after all it is the tail end of Mumbai. Whatever problems you have in Mumbai, you have in Thane also. It is ex-industrial area as a large number of industries have moved out of Thane. So the reminiscence of problems related to that is still lingering on. Again, part of organized crime is the main problem area. There is also a construction boom in Thane which has resulted in crimes related to building activity. On any given day at least a million square feet area is being built here as this is the future town or extension of Mumbai. Along with that there are problems. Management wise it is a challenge here as the worst communally sensitive area in the entire state of Maharashtra is Thane I am referring to places like Bhiwandi and Kalyan. 

In the 1970s when the rocking communal violence took place, thousands of people died here. Again in 1984 when there was a round of communal violence, hundreds of people died at that time. It is literally sitting on a volcano.So what one has to do is to be fully prepared, keep your gun powder absolutely dry. When you will require it, we don't know. So we have to be prepared all the time. I have made a commando squad comprising of 40 commandos ready on their motorbike with sten guns and machine guns. I have made four quick response teams, that is 30 men, one sub-inspector and one wireless vehicle. In that stretchers, gas, shields, helmets, everything is there where we are ready all the time to go and quell if any communal riots occur. We prepared a new communal riot scheme for Bhiwandi and we have implemented it.

We are doing continuous training programmes. So far atleast 1700 men have been trained in a variety of activities- both in service and outside service as well. Basically, I am busy setting up my own house in order. I am changing the police first and then I will step in the society and ask people to participate.


Thane being an entry point into the commercial capital, isn't terrorism a major threat in this area?
Bhiwandi and even Mumbra are sensitive areas. Interestingly Mumbra is more of a problem for Mumbai and not for Thane. Incidences such as Noorjehan who was shot in Ahmedabad have brought Mumbra into focus. Since I had worked as Jt. Commissioner of Police, Mumbai I know the sensitivity of Mumbai to Mumbra as well as the level of activities in Mumbra. The other sensitive area is Ulhasnagar. Ulhasnagar has its own different variety and colour, same goes with Ambernath. Badlapur too is a bustling industrial area and comes under the Thane district. Kalyan has its own colour, Dombivli is culturally a sensitive area where there are South Indians and Maharashtrians residing and daily there is some cultural event and there is a cultural revolution going on out there. 

So police has to wear different caps in different cities in the district of Thane. Like Thane is primarily a Maharashtrian zone, Bhiwandi on the other hand is 
comprising of 80% Muslims from U.P., Bihar, mill workers, loom workers staying alone and the air and culture is different out there. From Dombivli to Kalyan, different areas have different flavours and I must say therefore that being the Commissioner of Police Thane is a very enjoyable job. I am thoroughly enjoying my job and I am utilizing as much of my time in training activities. I will be meeting up with the Municipal Commissioner to give us a place in the multiplex where I plan to start a full fledged training centre for the police force. This centre will be equipped with full fledged airconditioned rooms where I can train hundreds of officers daily. This is indeed exciting especially as doing training is not my job, and that's what I am doing all the time. All my life I have been doing my training programmes which has probably been the secret of my success. I am a born teacher and I like to teach daily. I enjoy organizing events to do with training and this has become a hobby for me. In turn our people get better equipped to deal with various situations in what is normally a stressful job. This way they start enjoying there work and can work with total commitment towards welfare of people. 

What are the areas of training that you cover?
Our training basically comprises of man management. It is HRD keeping the police mindset in view. For example, the Sunil More incident that took place in Mumbai brought us into the gender bias training programme to remove the gender bias in the minds of the men. Then there are self development programmes where stress related training programmes are done. Two days back we had training for our police force on attitude, skills and knowledge. This was a very interesting programme- throughout the day they did various analysis and came out with an action plan. This action plan was made in the form of a pyramid and titled ” Ideal Police Station is our resolution” This plan was prepared on their own after they arrived at a consensus.

What about emerging areas of crime such as cyber crime ?
I am opening a cyber crime cell and a cyber crime laboratory in my office in Thane in the next 10 days. 17 lakhs is being spent by NASSCOM to create this cell which was even created for the Mumbai police. We are training people simultaneously to handle this department. This is a challenging area as a person sitting in one corner of the world like Pune can rob a bank in a remote corner of U.S. Such incidences have occurred and people have woken up to that. 

What efforts are being taken to change the image of the police?
We have this ”Alert citizen programme” where there are hoardings put across which reflects that the police is a “lokabhimukh” (in Marathi) which is a people friendly police force. We are training our police for that and that's why the extensive training activity to make the police a people friendly police force - Less corrupt, more friendly, more tolerable facet of the police face must be shown. 

How do you manage to be so calm, cool and stress free and have the time in spite of holding a very top rank position?
I believe what you consider important, you can have time for that. People have time for partying, for drinking, for golfing and various other activities. Even the top corporate honchos who have time for none have time for all this as they think this is unwinding. My unwinding, my golfing is basically to do with Event Management - to organize training programmes, lectures. I am happy about that. My idea of being happy and successful is a philosophy. I think that you are born with that kind of attitude - a self healing philosophy where you heal all your wounds on your own and you still don't get hurt in the bargain and be as helpful to as many people as possible - It is a way of life. My philosophy is my way of life - be amenable, be approachable 

What are the new initiatives and how do you implement them?
I have my police meetings daily and I also have continuous meetings with my men called “Darbar” where they interact with me directly. Even at the end of the training programme they give me a list of demands and one such demand a traffic police gave me was to have an oxygen booth. Immediately in the next 10 days, I organized one - the Esselworld people sponsored one costing around 65000 rupees. So when people ask for help I render and that's how the oxygen booth came. We are going to put up another oxygen booth in Bhiwandi. On one of my round, I saw a policeman eating Vada Pau on the desk and that gave me an idea that I must have a cafeteria-a swanky modern cafeteria is being built and will be ready in the next 15 days. 

It will be a fast food joint where you have no chairs and you can stand and eat your food and go.
We are also building a hospital. We have already collected 5 million (50 lakhs) and I will be collecting another 10 million (1 crore) - a hospital of 1.5 crores (15 million). I am currently negotiating with Apollo Hospital who will run it for us. It will be totally free for the 6000 families of my police force. It will again be a modern state of the art hospital just behind this building. 

How do you prepare yourself when you take up a new post such as the Commissioner of Police, Thane?
If you keep your eyes and ears open, you observe what is happening around and what is required there, the change - the local feeling, the environment, people's aspiration, policemen desires. These are all writing on the wall, you don't have to do any research actually. The best window is the local newspapers they give you all the good, the bad, the truth and much more. You interact with your police, the local public. Today the public is very vocal about what they feel and what is happening about corruption, about various other matters, they express themselves very loudly.

Don't you think the media at times is abetting crime by encouraging and endorsing brands which are inferior in quality thru' co-branding, sponsorships, etc especially in areas of education. There have been instances when leading publications have endorsed computer institutes or cabin crew academies who have been “fly-by-night” operators and siphoned off hard earned money of individuals and innocent people. How can this area of crime backed by media be tackled?
Mumbai being the financial capital, there are millions of ways being devised for committing economic crimes. The most dominant part of crime in Mumbai is this bloodless crime where you don't bleed but still die by such economic crimes. There are many “fly-by-night” operators who start finance schemes, doubling schemes. How can anybody believe that his money can double in just 6 months whereas it doesn't happen in 6 years. Computer academies is one, cabin crew training is the other.

The best way to curtail this menace is by the NGOs coming together with the Police and educating the people continuously. For example when you travel by ST or train and somebody gives you a biscuit sprinkled with sedative and you become unconscious and they take you away. So educate people by informing them not to take biscuits from strangers as you will be robbed. Another example is when people go on a holiday they are advised to lock their house, inform their neighbour, put your valuables including money in the safe deposit locker. In the same way in this kind of financial activities also continuous education is the only way. People like you and media in general should come forward by printing such information - to educate the people. Maybe we should put slides in the cinema hall or a two or three minute programme in the cable network in the form of a skit or a street play. These things can ensure public awareness. I think television is the best medium as it goes through the bedroom and living room of every household - Media should educate the people such as is being done in cases of smaller crimes like beware of a pickpocket, etc. In fact, such larger economic crimes need to be exposed - be it spurious overseas recruitments, doubling schemes, cabin crew false job guarantees, etc. The media can always take it up as an industry and educate the people. Even in hospitals, policing, industrial management, etc. so many wrong things may happen in various fields and if so you can expose the system and management. 

What is your say on the political and underworld nexus as well as the political interference in the working of the police?
Here I like to be blunt. In many cases, the difference between a politician and an underworld has vanished and gangsters have become politicians. There are 
hundreds of them who were gangsters and now politicians and unfortunately the police have to salute such people and at times even guard them. We have 
to do our job as per law. Nowadays in quite a few areas gangsters are politicians. So there is no nexus these days - they are merged into one and since the 
people have selected them as representatives we have to treat them accordingly. We are towing on a thin wire - it is a very delicate situation. So far so 
good. One day they do a run over and take over the whole operations, I think we will cease to exist. We will have to quit and go.

You have been through a series of posts from the Jt. Commissioner, Crime to CBI to Commissioner of Nagpur and now Commissioner of Police Thane. Which of these areas have been the most challenging of all? 
In my opinion every police job is very colourfully different job. So I have been making my life much more interesting by working sometimes for the intelligence bureau for 6 years, 4 years in the immigration and foreigners' registration, additional Commissioner - Crime, then Joint Commissioner - Crime, then Naxal area for 3 years, CBI and anti-corruption work for 3 years. So it has been a kaleidoscopic experience for me with a variety of experiences and it has been like a dream come true. I was in the IB, in the CBI, in the metropolitan policing, rural policing, organized crime, naxal, anti-insurgency. So I had fun I must say.

Almost everywhere that I have been without boasting, I have been very successful and popular and the support has been there right from the beginning.In the centre of all these things what I think is most important is basic sincerity and honesty. I always believe in not having a single rupee of unearned income. Every single rupee I have enjoyed is hard earned money. So since I don't owe anything to anybody, I can keep my head very high and anyone who comes in my sphere of activity feels that this man is not looking at me as a potential customer or a potential scapegoat. So open relationship with the whole world, open relationship with God, open relationship with the people including the police force. The police force too know that this guy is giving me free postings, free transfers, free recruitments. 

I have just done a recruitment here - absolutely non corrupt, not even a single murmur - 25000 people came and 250 people were recruited. So wherever I go this reputation does help you - openness and transparency in work. You have always had this exceptionally good image and when I do any training and wish to give examples of role models your name is one of them. How do you pass on this same message to others in the Police Force especially in present times. Inside the police force also there are policemen who are always looking for role models. Younger lot IPS officers are also looking for people and they very well know that there may be a handful of them in their area who may be above board. So being a role model or a living example is also a part of leadership. They teach you in Management Schools that to be a live example you have to live it up - first you live because if you preach and don't practice then you become a laughing stock. So if you don't want to be a laughing stock you have to be transparent. If I give you a lecture on non-corruption, I should also be non-corrupt. After giving a lecture on non-corruption if I demand money from the same person, he is going to laugh and make fun of me. Have simple needs, eat simple and have a simple way of life then you expect nothing from anybody. But if you have expensive habits like drinking scotch whisky and going only to five star hotels and then you start talking about simplicity all the time then people laugh - it is hypocrisy and you get exposed very fast. Particularly a police job is literally like sitting in a glass box, it's a glass house. You can't pretend and practice something else. Dichotomy in life cannot be practiced. Everybody is watching. People should feel safe when you walk on the road. You have to live up to that image of a police. If people feel unsafe seeing the policeman, the whole thing is a mockery. 

What is your suggestion to control things in Mumbai? Should the police force be increased in a busy metropolis in Mumbai?
Police have to become more people friendly - the policeman's outlook should change. The numbers are not going to increase or decrease because by doubling the police force it's the problem of managing the force itself. The same police should become quality police. We should have better qualified men - they could be paid little better and the society should treat them better and repose confidence in them. The media, the cinema and others can look at them and treat them as they deserve. For example the glorification of gangsters in the movies and serials and the running down of the police by the media because of the Sunil More incidence - both are disproportionate. Glorifying a criminal and running down a policeman both are disproportionately happening. My suggestion is be moderate and be realistic.

For example a gangster is a coward when he sits in one corner in either Karachi or Dubai or London or wherever and threatens the people of India. If he has the guts he should come here and operate. Ten days - I give 10 days to any criminal who will operate from the shores of this country, we'll fix them. My point is why are we glorifying such people who are cowards, who are shooting innocent people, who are unarmed. Whether it's the cinema, television or even glitzy magazines they glorify such criminals and gangsters by putting them on the cover page. Even important daily newspapers have succumbed to this kind of charm. In my opinion this kind of glorification should be vehemently opposed Don't glorify a policeman and don't even glorify a gangster. Be moderate and realistic. 

I was very intrigued by the picture of this little girl along with you in your office. This little girl - her mother was strangulated to death and she was the sole single living witness, just 4 years of age and this girl is only studying in kindergarten. She helped us identify the man, helped us draw the sketch of the murderer, identifying the man - in a test identification parade she very boldly identified the murderer. The picture of her is a true picture of innocence as how God could package innocence and send and you and me and others make them crooks by teaching them to tell lies. She is from Bhiwandi, her mother's name was Bhavna and the child is Priyanka and she studies in a convent and she speaks good English. This girl is a true example of how bold a child should be. I will call her the first alert citizen of the Thane Commissionerate and one of the best living examples of innocence and boldness. I am proud of such kind of children. 

What are the future plans in the coming months?
Besides a hospital, a cafeteria will also be built. I am already running a yoga course for the family of the police, I am also organizing Art of Living workshops for them, I am starting a training centre. Then there are training programmes being conducted that too in a full fledged air conditioned training centre which is first of its kind in the State. The good thing is lot of people are coming forward and showering affection and helping us to set up these ventures to the extent that one of the well known senior and highly respected individual in Mumbai has even volunteered to give 10 million (1 crore) rupees as a result of the initiatives taken.

Lastly, what is your message to both citizens as well as the police force.
The message to the police is to be more people friendly, less corrupt and treat the good with respect and treat the evil accordingly. People are watching us and our image is very low and each member of the police force has to make a conscientious effort to improve the police image. It is not just the Commissioner of Police or one Sivanandan that can do it - it should be the man on patrol, the man travelling in the bus or the train. People have expectations from them and they should live up to that. For the people I would say the modern materialism, the consumerism which is burning the people from both ends is the root cause of many crimes. So if you can stay away and imbibe a certain amount of spirituality and you do carry a God inside you and if you are aware of it.

Work hard as there is no substitute for hard work. When you work hard, you will seek growth and you only can write your own destiny. It is not some palmist sitting under a tree with a parrot - he doesn't decide your destiny, you write your own destiny and become what you want. This is my message for the youth and the youth should see a bright future for themselves and write their own destiny as in the next five years I want to become so and so. This is what I have done and I have achieved whatever I wanted. I got it always - the good name, the reputation all this has been my own desire. You make yourself what you are - whether it's an IAS officer or college professor - it's only you who can make it happen. Only you can make your dream come true - it's not a palmist or a reader or your celestial star that will determine your future. If you look at the celestial stars and dream and walk in the mean streets of Mumbai, you will be run over by a vehicle and you will be crushed to death. Write your destiny and look before you leap and that is my advice. 

D.Sivanandan is a man on the move and this is the second time he is being featured in Opportunities Today and with the ideas and dynamism that Mr. Clean 
of the Indian Police Force possesses, it wouldn't be surprising to see him being featured once again as he keeps on achieving laurels in his service to the 
people of India.

(Readers interested in catching up on more information about Mr. Sivanandan & his ideologies can log on to our website : www.rbcsgroup.com for his earlier interview which was published in the November 2001 edition of O.T.)

Read the earlier interview of Mr. D. Sivanandan.... Read Now....