October 2010
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In Conversation with Dr Kiran Bedi

Kiran Bedi is the humane and fearless icon who has come to be the most admired lady in the Indian Police Service. This visionary, with her holistic view on betterment of the country, set up ‘Navjyoti’ and ‘India Vision Foundation’ a few years ago as formal organisations to channel her ever-increasing involvement in community services.

Born on 9 June 1949 in Amritsar, Ms. Bedi has been a path breaker in prison reforms, community policing, crime prevention strategies, drug abuse treatment, spirituality in police training and schooling of street children. She has come a long way from her well-known and much-talked-about stint at the Tihar Jail to holding prestigious international postings like UN Civilian Police Advisor and national ones like Director General in Home Guard and Civil Defence.
India’s first and highest ranking women police officer, A dynamic social activist, she is also the founder of two NGO’s in India: Navjyoti for welfare and preventive policing and India Vision Foundation for prison reforms, drug abuse prevention and child welfare.

Could you take us through the day care project that is being run by your organisation at Tihar prison?

Well if you don’t have it doesn’t exist. Because we value child’s time and that’s how this project began because we may stop growing as adults but the child grows very rapidly. A child needs health, nutrition, environment, education, care, love, nursing; so that’s what I did. When I went to the prison, there was nothing for the child separately so the child was almost an adult, living an adult life with their mothers. And the only thing they had to play with was those insects and cats moving around. And the only journey that the child would have was to go out to the courts and learn the language of the lawyers and the courts and the sections of law, the language of cruelty and violence which was going out between the accused and the perpetrator or the victim. So that is the time when we started within our system, a separate place in the women’s ward which had about forty-fifty children. We started a temporary arrangement and begged and borrowed for starting a play way. So with the play way, we told the mothers that they won’t be allowed to take the children to the courts because the child has to get away from the super adult violent language. So, that’s the beginning. We put them in uniform and for the first time we brought in the concept of a child’s life inside an adult women prison.

What reforms do you think are required by the Indian Police System?

Oh, It has plenty to do. It needs to be upside down. Upside down means a million plus. Constabulary needs to be fully attended to. That’s the main base and foundation of the Indian Police. So the IPS is just about 3000-4000 in a one and a half million people. So on one side you have the leadership of senior cops called the “Top Cops” but the million and a half base needs to be really worked on. Where to begin?

Have women Police Officers made their place in the police force?

Well they made their presence but no impact yet. They have not been given position to assert. They have actually been denied positions to assert, they have been kept away. So that they don’t make a difference or leave a footprint. The society wants it but the male leadership must want a different footprint. There is a very long way to go.

You are back with your latest book, “Groom & Broom”. Tell us more about it?

“Groom & Broom” will hold up a mirror to its reader reflect on themselves. “We are becoming more tolerant towards incivility. All of us are being negatively impacted by uncivil behaviour and we see it everywhere—between child and parent, in our State Assemblies where MPs and MLAs throw mikes at each other, in our media where there's more shouting and less speaking and in our poor service delivery systems. We are talking management and leadership all the time, but we forget that decency and decorum lies at its very core. It's time we address this issue,” Dr. Bedi says with characteristic conviction.

The only solution, she believes, to this problem is to stop taking issues like civility and hygiene for granted. “These issues should move from being an individual to a social concern. We need to make cleanliness and good behaviour a social responsibility and a right. Why should integrity be only an individual concern?” questions Bedi.

Your enthusiasm for work for public service hasn’t gone down. What keeps you going?

I believe in doing. And I do as long as I want to do. I believe in contributing and using all the skills or energy that I have to a larger good. That’s what my policing stood for always. And now from policing to community service and public life, which is neutral, not political, not based on any one faith. Its humanity is a whole; its cause is a whole.

I think it’s a great sense of gratitude for what I have that keeps me going. What I have is to give.


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