All of us know Dr. Kiran Bedi, the current Lt. Governor of Pudducherry. But many of us just know her only as the first female IPS officer, not for her remarkable career for which she got recognised internationally and won various honors and awards. Now in this article we will try to know some of her incidents of her life which proved her courageous, true and a lady dedicated to serving and reforming the society, also about her personal information and her life before being a Police officer.
She was born on 09 June, 1949 in Amritsar to Prakash Lal Peshawaria and Prem Lata. Her father played tennis and also helped in family’s business. She along with her sisters studied in Sacred Heart Convent School, Amritsar. She participated in NCC. Sacred Heart Convent School offered a subject called ‘household’ to girls instead of science so she joined Cambridge School in class 9 which offered science to prepare for matriculation. She completed her matriculation one year before. She graduated with BA (Honours) in English from Government College for Women, Amritsar and post graduated from Panjab University, Chandigarh in Political Science. She won the NCC Cadet Officer Award during her final year of her graduation. She served as a lecturer in Khalsa college for women from 1970 to 1972 in Amritsar.
She also had a great achievement in the field of tennis, which she started playing from the age of nine. Outside Amritsar she played her first tournament in 1964 in National Junior Lawn Tennis Championship at Delhi Gymkhana. She won her first in 1966 in Amritsar. She was not nominated for Wimbledon Junior Championship by the Indian Administration for which she was eligible as she was a national champion. Her team also won Lionel Fonseka Memorial Trophy in Colombo by beating Sri Lanka. She played until the age of thirty.
She began her training for IPS at National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie on 16 July, 1972 with a six month foundation course. She was only woman in a batch of 80 men and became the first female IPS officer. She was allocated Union territory cadre.
She was posted to Chanakyapuri in Delhi in 1975 and she became the first woman to lead a full male contingent in Republic Day Parade, 1975. Political demonstration were very frequent in this area. There were many clashes between nirankaris and akali sikhs during 70s. Group of nirankaris held a congregation near India Gate on 15 November, 1978 and nearly 700-800 akalis demonstrated against them. She was deployed with her platoon to stop them and to maintain order. As the protest becomes violent she charged them with canes. She managed to disperse the protestors for which she was awarded the Presidents Police Medal for Gallantry (1979), on October 1980. She started recruiting civilian volunteers when she was posted to west district of Delhi due to non availability of sufficient police staff in 1979. Six civilians led by an armed policeman patrolled each village during night. She counter against the illegal liquor business to reduce crime in the area. She encouraged people to interact with her, introduced complaint box in each ward, and beat constables were asked to have their lunch at a set time near this box. She walk with constables to raise people’s confidence in police and asked them whether they know there beat constable in their area. This resulted in reduction in crimes such as eve teasing and domestic violence. Local women volunteered to help her to fight crime in the area.
She was made DCP (Traffic) on October, 1981. There were many blockades and diversions in the city traffic due to preparation of 1982 Asian Games. She then encouraged coordination between Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking and Delhi Development Authority. She took measures against errant motorists, replaced challans with spot fines and used tow trucks to tow wrongly parked vehicles. She supported one of her officer Sub-Inspector Nirmal Singh, who towed an Ambassador car belongings to Prime Minister Office. She raised funds for traffic guidance material by presenting Asian Games Traffic Management plan to a group of sponsors, who provided road safety and educational material worth Rs. 35,00,000. Traffic police jeeps bought. She got Asian Jyoti award for excellence after the Asian Games, which she refused for herself and recommended it for whole traffic unit. Her action against errant motorists from the rich and influential families turned a powerful lobby against her including director of the CBI and her own sister-in-law. She had personally fined wrongly parked car of Indira Gandhi’s yoga instructor Dhirendra Brahmachari whom people says had role in her transfer with R.K. Dhawan and Yashpal Kapoor, aides of Indira Gandhi. Another theory says loss of revenue due to holding classes of traffic violators rather than charging them with fine. She had to leave for Goa leaving behind her seven years old seriously ill daughter at that time, suffering from nephritic syndrome since the age of three. She request Home Ministry to hold the posting untill her daughter’s condition becomes stable, but everything was in the hand of the people offended by her equal enforcement of law.
She got transfered to Goa on March, 1983 for three years. After the completion of Zuari bridge people were still using ferries to transfer their vehicles to cross Zuari river, because Zuari bridge was not opened for the public. State government wanted Indira Gandhi to inaugurate the bridge, but they haven’t secured confirmation from the Prime Minister. During a patrol she noticed that and removed blockades and diverted traffic waiting for ferry to the bridge, which angered many politicians. Bedi utilised NCC cadets along VIP routes for regulating traffic during Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) in Goa, in November, 1983. She applied for leave when her daughter’s medical condition worsened. Her leave was recommended by Inspector General of Police Rajendra Mohan but not sanctioned by the Goa government. She left for Delhi. Her daughter was hospitalised in AIIMS for one week, she decided to stay with her until her recovery. She sent a detailed explanation to Goa government with medical reports and certificates but Pratapsingh Rane Chief Minister of Goa declared her absconding and absent without leave in a statement given to United News of India (UNI). After knowing her daughter’s condition UNI stated Rane’s statement as incorrect, which made Goa government more hostile to her.
BACK IN DELHI
She was reinstated to Delhi by Union Home Secretary T.N. Chaturvedi to the post of Deputy Commandant, Railway Protection Force, New Delhi. She was assigned to the Department of Industrial Development as a Deputy Director, where she worked under the Director General of Industrial Contingency as strike mediator between labor and management. On the request of Police Commissioner Ved Marwah she was assigned to the police headquarters in 1985, where she cleared many pending files and to motivate staff sanctioned 1600 promotions in a single day.
When she was DCP of Delhi’s North district in 1986, she setup a detox center in one of the police premises with the help of her superiors. At that time Delhi had only one center for the treatment of drug addicts- Ashiana, run by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation. Detox relied on community donations of furniture, blankets, medicines and other supplies and received voluntary services from doctors and yoga teachers. Within a year five more centers were setup intended to serve upto 30 patients, there was a time when this centers had catered around 100 patients. She had given presentations and lectures on this programme by travelling all over India. She with her 15 officers institutionalised it as Navjyoti Police Foundation for Correction, De-addiction and rehabilitation before her transfer. She served as the General Secretary of this foundation. During 1980s she angered the politicians by ordering lathi charge on the assembly of BJP in Red Fort area and arresting its leaders and arresting J.P. Aggarwal MP of Congress (I) for violating curfew orders.
Delhi Police handcuffed a lawyer ( practicing in Tis Hazari Courts Complex) named Rajesh Agnihotri and produced him in the court for writing obscene graffiti inside a women’s toilet, who attempts to impersonate himself. He was also earlier caught by the police for stealing from a girl’s purse. His lawyer colleagues claimed that he had been framed falsely and a lawyer must not be handcuffed. Bedi defended her officer’s action. Lawyers organised a strike and proceeded towards DCP (North) office, where they manhandled Additional DCP Sandhu leading to a struggle between police and lawyers. Many politicians supported lawyers and demanded suspension of Bedi. Police charged lathi on lawyers on 21 January in Tis Hazari complex. Congress corporator Rajesh Yadav arrived at Tis Hazari Court with a mob of 600-1000 people with brickbats, hockey sticks and rods on 17 February, started stoning on lawyer’s chambers and windscreens of the cars and raised slogans in support of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Bedi. Bedi denied any role in the incident and Rajesh Yadav was arrested for rioting. The lawyers protest lasted for two months more demanding resignation of Bedi until Delhi High Court constituted a two judge committee of Justice D.P. Wadhwa and Justice N.N. Goswamy, known as Wadhwa Commission to investigate. Lawyer’s counsel produced evidence that on 17 February Police knows about the 2000 mob was heading towards Tis Hazari where lawyers were on hunger strike, but the police force had not been deployed for their protection. Commission expresses its concern on police lapses and ordered transfer of five police officers including Bedi out of North Delhi during investigation period. She was transferred to the post of Deputy Director (Operations), Narcotics Control Bureau in Delhi. Delhi Bar Association wanted her suspension however Police Commissioner Ved Marwah refused for that. The commission’s final report in April, 1990 stated Rajesh Agnihotri arrest justified but handcuffing as illegal. It stated lathi charge on lawyers ordered by Bedi as unjustified and she was involved in mob attack on lawyers. After this it was decided to transfer her out of Delhi.
She requested Joint Secretary (Union Territories) to transfer her to Mizoram, so she can get posted to Delhi again in few years. She wrote to Home Secretary Naresh Kumar, when she didn’t get any response from Joint Secretary (UTs), who with her batchmate Pradeep Singh convinced Joint Secretary for her transfer to Mizoram by stating that usually officers refused their posting to Mizoram but she volunteered for that. She moved to Mizoram with her parents and daughter and reported to Mizoram government in Aizawl on 27 April, 1990. There she was Deputy Inspector General (Range).
Consumption of alcohol even among her staff was very common, especially the home brewed rice liquor Zu. Earlier she didn’t interfered later she opened an indoor de-addiction facility for alcoholic cops. Major crime in the district was smuggling of heroin across the Burmese border. Most of the criminals were alcoholic, as Mizoram was a Christian majority state she declared saturday as ‘prayer and rehabilitation day’ at district police stations to reduce drugs and alcohol induced criminal acts.
Her daughter Sukriti applied for Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi under Mizoram residents quota, which was opposed by students of Mizoram as she is a non-Mizo. Her daughter got a seat from central pool, as she topped the merit list, as per government guidelines. Lal Thanhawla Chief Minister of Mizoram asked her to surrender the seat but she denied by saying that her daughter deserved that seat. She left Aizawl by submitting a leave application when protest against her turned violent and she received threat. Lal Thanhawla accused her for insubordination.
After leaving Mizoram on September, 1922 after eight months she got posted to Delhi prisons as Inspector General on May, 1993. No officer wants to be posted to tihar as it was a violent and unmanageable place, the post Bedi holds was vacant since nine months. Tihar had a capacity of 2500 prisoners but at her time its population was between 8000 to 9500. 90% of them were charged with non bailable offences, some of them waiting for trials in court for many years. It had a budget of Rs.15 crore just for basic expenses, hardly anything for welfare activities. She introduced various reforms like separating barracks of the hardened criminals who are recruiting gang members, selling contrabands and exporting money, they challenged her in court for segregating but failed. She arranged vocational training with certificates for prisoners to aid them in finding a job after their release, IGNOU and National Open School also started their centers in tihar. For helping undertrial prisoners she set up legal cells. Smoking were banned and yoga and vipassana classes were arranged for prisoners with some more activities such as sports, prayers and festival celebration. Staff involved in drugs supply were imprisoned and de-addiction centers were established. Bank was set up and a bakery unit and small manufacturing units such as carpentery and weaving units were set up, and the profits were used in prisoners’ welfare fund. A panchayat system was developed in which a respected prisoner represents other prisoners every evening to sort out various problems by meeting senior officers. She installed petition boxes for the prisoners to write about any issue to the IG and received acknowledgment and status of their petition. She involved NGOs, schools, civilians and former prisoners for reform programme as a result disturbance in the jail dropped. She organised a health day on May, 1994 and invited 400 doctors and paramedics to attend tihar’s patients.
Her reforms in Tihar received her worldwide acclaim. But her superiors accused her for neglecting prison security for her personal glory. Minister of Prisons Harsharan Singh Balli from BJP was also against her, because many members of his party had not forgotten lathi charge in 1980s. However Chief Minister of Delhi Madan Lal Khurana of BJP praised her for her work in tihar.
She was awarded Ramon Magsaysay award and Nehru fellowship in 1994. US President Bill Clinton invited her to National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, but Delhi government restricted her to accept the invitation, she asked Union Home Ministry for the permission but Home Minister SB Chavan declined. She again got invitation from Clinton in 1995, this time she approached to media. Chavan allowed her for breakfast due to pressure from media.
To discuss the social integration of prisoners at Copenhagen Social Summit she was invited by the United Nations. She met Rajesh Pilot Minister of State for Home when Delhi government denied her to attend the summit, the meeting got so long that she had to cancel an appointment with Delhi’s CM Khurana, she got permission from Pilot but this annoyed Khurana.
In a letter to Union Home Secretary Delhi’s Lt. Governor PK Dave accused her for manipulating foreign trips, compromising prison’s security by allowing visitors such as American officials and foreign TV crews without permission and allowing NHRC representatives to meet TADA detainees from Kashmir. In her defence she stated that TV crews from foreign only shot vipassana meditation classes for which she was authorised, Union Government asked her two allow two Americans in prison- Lee P. Brown and Christine Wisner and TADA detainees were on hunger strike for demanding speedy trials. She was removed from Tihar on 03 May, 1995 by Delhi’s CM and Lt. Governor. On her transfer some goes on hunger strike in tihar while some distributed sweets, she accused politicians for making false accusations against her and misleading people and she demanded an enquiry for her transfer on unverified charges. Rajesh Pilot supported her and Khushwant Singh described it as a victory for handfu of small minded, envious people over a gutsy woman.
She was posted as to police academy as Additional Commissioner (Policy and Planning) on 4 May, 1995, then she served as Special Commissioner (Intelligence) in Delhi Police.
While she was appointed as Inspector General of Police in Chandigarh her mother went into coma after suffering a stroke. Union Home Ministry transferred her back to Delhi on her request, but her mother died within three days in Delhi after 41 days in coma.
She became the first woman to be appointed as United Nations Civilian Police Adviser in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in 2003. On her arrival after two Delhi Bar Association wrote to the government authorities that Bedi’s appointment to a top post might result in conflict between the lawyers and Police. They hadn’t forgotten the happenings in 1988. She was made Director General of the Home Guards. The last appointment she hold as an IPS was Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development. She left the service in November, 2007 and wanted to focus on academic and social work.
INDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION MOVEMENT AND POLITICS
She was invited by Arvind Kejriwal to expose CWG scam in October, 2010 which she accepted. They form a group India Against Corruption with Anna Hazare and other activists demanding a stronger Jan Lokpal Bill to be passed in the parliament in 2011. After many discussions and protest parliament passed a resolution to consider three points in drafting of Lokpal bill.
She supported Narendra Modi in 2014 general election. She joined BJP and contested election as BJP’s CM candidate for Delhi which she lost SK Bagga (AAP candidate) from Krishna Nagar constituency. She was appointed as Lt. Governor of Puducherry on 22 May, 2016. She broke the convention during her oath taking ceremony on 29 May, 2016 by addressing the gathering that she was on a mission to make Union Territory of Puducherry a Prosperous Puducherry and given officers a mantra to achieve this mission, TEA (Trust, Empowerment, Accountability).
She made Raj Nivas as People Nivas by opening it for the public, anyone can visit to meet Lt. Governor from Monday to Wednesday at 5 PM. She rounds the city by walk, on cycle, by car or by public transport which helped a lot in solving sanitation issue in the city. She fought and limited the fees in medical admissions for the deserving students. She initiated a project ‘Mission Water Rich Puducherry’ when she heard that PWD don’t have enough funds for de-siltation of water channels. Water channels are de-silted by community support and connecting donors with JCB machine contractors. On 70th birthday she began ‘Mission Green Puducherry’ by planting saplings.
In 2007 Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation formed by her was renamed as Navjyoti India Foundation. It received various support from local bodies, government and charitable trusts from India and foreign. 20,000 drugs and alcohol addicts have been treated their in 25 years and it also educates children in slums and streets by establishing 200 single teacher schools, arrange vocational training, healthcare facilities and counselling for vulnerable sections. It established Navjyoti Community College affiliated to IGNOU in 2010.
She established India Vision Foundation (IVF) in 1994 for police reforms, prison reforms, women empowerment and rural and community development. She emphasized on better training, opposition to harassment and humiliation of trainees, opposing frequent transfers and a police administration to protect officers from politicians and bureaucrats; in the field of police reforms. For women’s she advocated equal educational opportunities, property ownership including co-ownership and empowerment of rural women.
She met Brij Bedi in tennis courts in Amritsar, to whom she married on 09 March, 1972, who was nine years older than her. They had a daughter named Sukriti later Saina, born in 1975. The couple lived separately most of the time.
In the above article I have tried to illuminate a significant part of her life. We have seen that being a police officer she was not just limited to her duty of catching criminals and punishing them, she tried to make a crime free environment by taking various steps to reform society, prison and helping drugs and alcohol addicts in de-addiction. Her equal enforcement of law have many times annoyed her seniors, influential peoples and politicians, but she never taken a step back without worrying about the consequences. She got recognition worldwide for her work done in Tihar and for the boldness with which she faced challenges during her career. For her work in Tihar she also got honorary Doctor of Law degree from CUNY School of Law in 2005 for her humanitarian approach to prison reforms and policing. As we she was a good tennis player, which won her many championships, titles and medals, and even her husband and father were also tennis players. She is also good from academic side as she served as a lecturer in Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar. She got a Law degree from Delhi University in 1988 and Ph.D from IIT Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences for her thesis in Drug abuse and Domestic violence in 1993 when she was posted in Mizoram. She wrote many books such as Demand for Swaraj, It’s always possible: One Woman’s transformation of Tihar, Galti Kiski, Empowering women as I see, Leadership and Governance as I see, Be the change: Fighting corruption and many more books.
She also hosted a television show Aap ki Kachehri on Star Plus in which she resolved everyday conflicts, she was invited in Washington as a speaker by TEDx. She launched a website in 2008 to help people who don’t get help from local police. Many films, documentaries and biographies are based on her life. She was featured in ‘Mega Icon’ a National Geographic series in 2018 which revolves around her whole life.
Even after her retirement she worked for the social cause and raised her voice against corruption. At the 50th Governors Conference in Delhi she has introduced several best practices in Puducherry that are akin to management lessons. As the Lt. Governor of Puducherry she has proved that as a politician she has a only focus on development and the well being of her state.