Right from the time when her name became a common utterance in the country, Kiran Bedi has been inspiring the society by her actions and her will to go all out or what she believed. When other officers would think numerous times before not doing something, she would leap towards the targets she wanted to reach. Once a respected police officer, and always a revered crusader against corruption, Kiran Bedi is a epitome of courage and conviction. Amid a lot of talk about corrupts governments, politics and her movement, she talks to Yo Vizag about her inspirations, choices and setbacks while also touching upon an incident that remains etched in public memory.
Q: Tell us a little about your childhood. You had a comfortable upbringing but still had a sense of mission in life. What inspired you during those days?
A: I think it was the environment at home. It was a very inspiring home environment created by my parents. It was a nice large family of four sisters and we were all into tennis; always on the court. And sport was always over books for us because we read about a lot of values in books but reinforce them in sport. And we had travel so much in trains to participate in tournaments. So, the inspiration to do something was always there.
Q: Back then, you had varied interests; you were an academician, a tennis player, and then you qualified for the IPS. How did you choose to be an IPS officer?
A: Well, because I wanted to be in the government service. And everyone during that time had an inclination to do something and my inclination was service. And I was never business oriented while growing up, I was always service oriented. I never wanted to do big business. And service was in my family.
Q: When you joined the IPS in 1972, did you think that you had achieved what you wanted to or was it a beginning?
A: It definitely was a beginning to achieve what I wanted to. Once you join the government as a IAS or IPS officer, it’s really easy to relax and say I have achieved everything, but for me it was only a beginning.
Q: One incident that comes to mind when one thinks of Kiran Bedi is when you had the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s car towed away for illegal parking. Tell us a little about that incident and its implications.
A: It was during my tenure in the Traffic Police. We were the city preparing for observance of traffic laws because it was very chaotic and we wanted to bring equality of law. My cops were being empowered to implement the law. And one of my young officers suggested parking was a problem. And cars, in those days, only belonged of the upper classes. And we wanted to implement the law irrespective of whoever it was. And one of those cars which broke the traffic laws belonged to the Prime Minister.
Q: You have been Inspector General of Prisons, Tihar Jail and initiated a lot programs for prisoners. But what more do you think needs to be done for prisoners?
A: I think they should just continue with the reforms and the good news is that they are doing that. I think any prison can be reformed in a way that the prisoner educates himself, develops his skills, earns his wages, pays for his children’s education and pay for his costs of living and this can be done through the public-private partnership. I think a model can be implemented where the prisoner pays for his imprisonment. Why should the society pay for him when he has committed a crime?
Q: Even after 30 years of your joining the IPS, women do not form a very large group in the IPS. What do you think can be done to improve the situation?
A: It is improving considerably now. I think we would gradually see the number increasing in the future.
Q: You have an active participant in the civil society’s crusade against corruption. What inspired you to work in such a forum at this stage?
A: This has been my fight from the first day of my service. First, being non-corrupt, promoting integrity and protecting the honest was my mandate. I used to retire corrupt officers, if you are found corrupt red-handed, you are out. A corrupt police officer is a threat to the society. And this movement began with Arvind Kejriwal and me and we requested Anna Hazare and all others to join us and that’s how it started rolling.
Q: You have achieved a lot in your life. But there must have been a few setbacks as well. Which were the biggest setbacks you suffered in your life and career?
A: I never looked at anything as a setback; I always bounced back. If there was something that was done to stop my growth or the optimum utilisation of my potential, I didn’t let it happen and found other ways. Like if I got a posting I didn’t want, I worked towards writing a book or applied for an academic course. So, there was no setback as such, and whenever there was an obstacle, I turned it into a stepping stone.
Q: What would be your advice to the young girls of today?
A: Realise your potential. And life is all about constant learning. Never say I have done my Masters and post doctoral so now I am done. You have to keep learning and constantly sharpen your skills. Life doesn’t belong to outdated people anymore. I also urge women to work on their personal skills because you have to manage your family and your personal work.
This story was first published on April 10th, 2012. This article has been only reposted.