U S Mallya: The Silent Doer to be in Limelight

November 30, 2015

Vishwa Konkani Kendra in Mangaluru is set to bring into limelight Ullal Srinivas (U S) Mallya, consider the Maker of Modern Mangalore, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death which falls on December 19. In an appeal sent to concerned stakeholders, Basti Vaman Shenoy, founder of the Kendra, says: "We would like to observe the occasion to remember the great visionary and architect of modern Mangaluru in a befitting manner". The Kendra’s planned initiative involves efforts to name Bajpe international airport after Mallya and install his bust at a prominent location in the city. Since this godfather of the undivided DK district is hardly known to the present young generation a brief biographical recall is relevant.

We had looked forward with sweet anticipation to the landing of international flights on the second and longer runway at Bajpe Airport. New Mangalore Port has been berthing luxury cruise ships and now RO-RO ships. The traffic it handles has been creating new records with the passing years. New container berth is now functional. The Hassan-Mangalore railway line, now converted to broad gauge, links Mangaluru to Bangaluru on a daily basis. Karnataka Regional Engineering College, now renamed National Institute of Engineering Technology, is a thriving centre of engineering education and centre of research-innovation. Frequent buses cover the distance between Kasargod and Kundapur within four hours with all the rivers en route having been briged. One common link among the above is U S Mallya who lives through the projects he helped to launch and execute in the undivided South Canara (later named DK) district from the dawn of India’s Independence.

Though 2002 was marked as Mallya’s birth centenary, the present generation knows very little about this towering benefactor of the district. When I approached his close family members to get some background on him, they could not come up with any reference material on him. Then I chanced on a brief biographical sketch of Mallya written by Basti Vaman Shenoy in the series, Konkani Mahamanestha Lekhanamala, published by Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy. With acknowledgement to this publication, I am pleased to recall for current readers some highlights of the work done by Mallya for the undivided district.

These days people talk about "walking the talk". But, Mallya never talked. During his 18 years in Parliament, he did not make a single speech, but silently observed the proceedings from the back benches of Lok Sabha. That was his style of functioning. He lobbied for the projects in the district with those who mattered. These included the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Kamraj Nadar.

Mallya, one of the five children of Ullal Manjunatha and Saraswati Mallya, was born on November 21, 1902. Starting his education, up to 8th Std, at St Aloysius College, he switched to Canara High School from where he finished his SSLC. Then he joined Government College (now University College) to do his Intermediate. But, at the age of 18 years, Mallya, already attracted to Gandhiji and the freedom struggle, spearheaded by the Congress party, plunged himself into the freedom movement - turning his back on further education and the flourishing family business at Bunder. He faced police lathis and jail terms many times over. To avoid these and work for the cause, he went underground. He is said to have been master of disguises in his quest to escape capture. For instance, once he had taken shelter in Bombay in the house of an influential relative. On a tip off the police surrounded the house to capture him. Sensing the situation, Mallya dressed himself as a domestic servant and busied himself mopping the floor. As the police went in to arrest him, he left the mopping and slipped out of the exit door where he had reached in the process of mopping.

In national politics, Mallya was very powerful and influential as a member of Congress Working Committee and General Secretary, along with Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was also Chief Whip of the Congress Party in Parliament - a position no one in this region has held since his time. Mallya was close to Nehru. A Mangalorean leader and cultural tsarina, Kamaladevi Chattopadyaya, close to the Nehru family, supported him to climb up the Congress hierarchic ladder. He had a decisive voice in Regional Congress Samiti and was considered the kingmaker in the State. At the central level also, State leaders having business with Union ministers, including Prime Minister Nehru, first used to meet Mallya for felicitating the meetings. In North India, he was called Mallayya - big daddy. In those days, there was a saying that if Congress puts up a lamp post as candidate for election, it would win hands down. But Congress tickets were hard to get. Mallya had crucial role in selecting candidates and was much sought after.

To appreciate the impact of Mallya’s work for coastal Karnataka, one has to visualise the state of pre-Independence communication infrastructure. Because of a number of rivers which had to be crossed by ferry boats, travel between Mangalore and Kundapur took 36 hours. Mallya dove-tailed National Highway 17 and 42 in the first and second Five Year Plans and bridged all the rivers en route, enabling today’s fast travel - covering the distance in two hours. Other projects credited to Mallya include, Akashvani Station in Mangalore, Airport at Bajpe, Mangalore-Hassan Railway, Karnataka Regional Engineering College, all-weather New Mangalore Port, Mangalore Chemical and Fertilisers Limited and the Town Hall on Nehru Maidan.

Each one of these has interesting story behind it in terms of Mallya’s involvement. For instance, when he came to know that Lal Bahadur Shastri, as Union Education Minister, was planning four Regional Engineering colleges in the country, Mallya went to him and persuaded him to have one in South Canara. From Delhi he contacted V S Kudva of CPC (Canara Public Conveyance – a combine of bus owners) and Chief Engineer M.L. Shrestha and had temporary sheds put up at Suratkal. He told them that he would bring Shastri to inaugurate the College within 15 days – and he did. When the Circuit House was being constructed at Kadri, he discovered that the blueprint did not have provision for the public to wait. While the officials tried to put him off saying that any change in the plan would mean new sanction and delay, Mallya asked them to include the waiting lobby in the amended blueprint and took it himself to Bangalore and got it sanctioned.

When the sanction for Bangalore-Hassan Railway was in doubt, Mallya sent a telegram to Lal Bahadur Shastri, then Railway Minister, threatening to go on an indefinite fast in front of Parliament House, prompting Shastri to sanction the project immediately. When work on the new Netravathi road bridge was stalled for lack of cement, Mallya got Delhi to dispatch two wagon-loads of cement to progress the work.

Mallya got Bajpe airport sanctioned and got Nehru to inaugurate it in 1952. There is a poignant footnote to this. On December 19, 1965 Mallya was getting ready to fly to Mangalore from Delhi. On the way to the Delhi airport, he got a heart attack and was taken back to his residence where he died. On hearing of his death, then Prime Minister Shastri, on a tour of UP, returned from Lucknow, and arranged for Mallya’s body to be taken to Bajpe airport in a special Indian Air Force plane.



By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • KRPrabhu, Bluru/Kudla

    Sat, Dec 05 2015

    Most of the MPs except Poojary made money by using their position.....populorly known as known
    'doubling the assests'!!!

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Promenade Road,Fraze Town,B'lore 560005

    Sat, Dec 05 2015

    Really salute to U.S.Mallya for his great contribution to bring our coastal Karnataka in the world map

  • John Tauro, M'luru / Kwt

    Sat, Dec 05 2015

    Until now I had just heard older generations talking about Mr. US Mallya. Today I had the privilege of reading in detail about the dedicated leader and his contributions to DK. My sincere thanks to Mr. John Monteiro and Daijiworld for enlightening me.

  • Prabhu, Ujire

    Fri, Dec 04 2015

    In around 1950s , USMallya had visited our home in our village. He was a friend of my brother. He dined with us and he was simply dressed in his dhoti. I had no idea how important he was on a the political scene. I was young then.

    Thanks for updating my knowledge about Mr. Mallya.

  • Surendar Diwakar M. Rao, Mangalure

    Fri, Dec 04 2015

    Honouring history, it would be good if Vishwa Konkani Kendra honours KS Rao's family too on December 19.

  • John B Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Thu, Dec 03 2015

    Thank you for the string of comments. In the context of Robin introducing Rajaji and KS Rao, I quote from the article I had written ten years ago on the latter.

    “During Gandhiji’s second visit to Mangalore in 1934, he went to Sadashiva’s rented house at Kadri to console the family. He said: “Karnad is a great son of India. He has sacrificed everything for the country. He has sown the seeds of patriotism and freedom in Karnataka. The country is grateful to him”.

    However, much disappointment and pain awaited him. When elections were due under Federal Act of 1935, he was to be the natural choice for central legislature. By this time he had lost his health and wealth. Through manipulation, the choice fell on Srinivas Mallya, whom Sadashiva had helped and mentored. Yet, he campaigned for the ed candidates.

    Having come to know of the injustice meted out to Sadashiva, Sardar Patel sent telegrams to Sadashiva to attend the Congress session at Faizpur. Though poor in health and wealth, he went and was put up, as an ordinary delegate, in a tent – exposed to rain and cold. He caught pneumonia and went to Bombay for treatment. He died on January 9, 1937. His body was kept for public darshan at Congress House and, according to contemporary accounts, the place had not seen such large crowds since the funeral of Tilak 17 years earlier.”

  • Robin, Byndoor

    Thu, Dec 03 2015

    Thanks Edmund & Antony... Monteiro sirs article and your replies are true in nature.

    I happened to visit one old Studio owner in his studio at the heart of Hampankatta who was the witness of many events from the time of Independence. He showed many of his old snaps to me.

    He continued his words...."Manipal Pais have money and they are trying for MP seat. Mallya told them you can't get a ticket as long as I am alive..."

    This depicts the clear Congress view of Mallya.

    Including this studio owner they all are GSB or RSB (Generally called as Konkanis) were attached to Congress earlier and may not be now.

    What happened at the centre also happened here in South Kanara. Gandhiji was in the front and Nehru and his family enjoyed the power. Karnad Sadashiv Rao was in the front in freedom struggle but Mallya enjoyed the MP seat.

    In one Congress conference held in North India, they are all waiting there for Karnad Sadashiv Rao there. But they saw the face of Mallya there instead. Mallya projected himself there as representative of Congress of the region. K.S.Rao being a rich person distributed all his wealth to poor as per Gandhis advice and at last has NO penny to go and attend the Congress conference.

    This is how Mallya emerged. Of course he brought Heaven to South Kanara ... But the real hero is forgotten by Congress. K.S.Rao got only his name for that Mangalore road.

    Thank you all...

  • Edmond Noronha, Kirem-Sharjah

    Thu, Dec 03 2015

    Thanks for putting light into this article.

  • Edmond Noronha, Kirem-Sharjah

    Thu, Dec 03 2015

    Thanks, Robin Byndoor for your inputs.
    For sharing the facts which many of us unaware of.

  • Suleman Beary, Udupi

    Thu, Dec 03 2015

    After 1965... I did not see any major changes or projects other than konkan railway in D.K.

  • Antony Cony D Souza, Karkala / Qatar

    Wed, Dec 02 2015

    John Sir, please allow me to add a bit more although you have already written exceptionally well.

    U. Srinivas Mallya or Sheenappa Mallya in Dakshina Kannada is the architect of Modern Canara District or master planner and was a true politician. In his 18 years tenure as member of Parliament, from 1946-1965.

    Mallya was more interested in taking part in freedom struggle rather than attending classes. Reaching out to Mahatma Gandhi’s call, Mallya joined the freedom fight at the age of 18. He was chosen by Pt.Jawaharlal Nehru to be the General secretary of All India Congress Committee in 1951 when he was the Congress President, along with Lal Bahadur Shastri.

    He was elected as Member of Parliament from the Udupi Lok Sabha constituency for three terms from the very first Indian Elections held in 1952, and in the subsequent two held in 1957, and 1962.

    Karnad Sadashiva Rao provided the platform for the likes of Mallya, it is said that betrayed and ditched KS Rao. However, in the real sense none are negating Mallya’s contributions. They are:

    • New Mangalore Port (Panambur)
    • Mangalore –Hassan –Bangalore Railway Line
    • NH-17 (Mumbai-Kochi)
    • NH-48 (Mangalore-Bangalore) Road
    • Karnataka Regional Engineering College (Surathkal),(presently NITK, Surathkal)
    • Mangalore Air Port (Bajpe)
    • All India Radio Station (Mangalore),

    Interestingly, the British press had nicknamed him:” 20th Century Fox, for his elusive escapades during the freedom struggle

  • jimmy noronha, Bellore, Lucknow

    Wed, Dec 02 2015

    I am surprised to read your letter which reminded me what Shakespeare said in one of his plays. He says, ".....the evil that men do lives after them the good is of interred with their bones so let it be with Caesar." This article unearths the good that the man has done for all of us.

  • Robin, Byndoor

    Wed, Dec 02 2015

    Monteiro Sir,

    Have you read the book of Dr. Shivarama Karanth titled "Audaaryada Urulalli". If not, Please read. I also bring to your notice what Rajaji told about Mallya. According to Rajaji Mallya was "Dangerous". I have not seen Mallya. But Rajaji definitely saw him closely. We should respect Rajaji's views as well. It was Karnad Sadashiv Rao to work and Mallya to take CREDIT. Truth is bitter sir..

  • f.l.fernandis, Bangalore.

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    A good information.He is the person who br ought s.kanara developed very fast.True gentleman and true leader.l

  • ASHOK SHETTY, Puttur, Udupi.

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Good information, thanks Mr.John B Monteiro.

  • nasir, mangaluru

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Mr MALLYA is bright light for dark streets.
    One man can change the city , state ,and country

  • Sandy, Udupi

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Great man. How I wish we had visionaries like Mr U S Mallya and Dr T M A Pai in the present age.

  • Edmond Noronha, Kirem-Sharjah

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Feeling proud of to learn Late U.S.Mallya, the builder & architect of Mangalore.
    There is lot to learn n follow from this true Gentleman.
    Great tribute by Mr. John B. Monteiro.
    Thank you Daiji world n the writer for giving us to learn of our great personalities.

  • ANANTH NAYAK ADYAR, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    It is not M. L. Shreshtha. It is R. L. Shreshtha

  • Krishna, karkala

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Great son of South Kanara

  • KRPrabhu, B'luru

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    A true leader of the people....

  • dinesh shetty, Nitte/Dubai

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    A salute to the Legendary Person U S Mallya..

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Title: U S Mallya: The Silent Doer to be in Limelight

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