Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds
Think, Plan, Can - my foremost learning from Dr Kiran Bedi.
Unfolding the life of one of India's most admired women of strength - Dr Kiran Bedi née Peshawaria!
Her father sent her for schooling at a convent; opposing his patriarch's opinion of not schooling children at a christian school. Isn't this something for us to teach our children from their formative years, having a vision and sticking on to achieving it with persistence? Kiran participated in various extra-curricular activities to groom her personality. Here she enrolled herself at National Cadet Corps (NCC).
Back then convent schools groomed girls for good housekeeping. Our lady had her eyes set on science. She moved to a private university to complete her education in Science, not bound by her father's decision. She went on to become India’s first and highest woman ranking officer in 1975 as she passed out among 80 men cadets.
Her flight to fame began in Delhi’s crime infested West District. She had a very small team to handle the volume of criminal activities rampant there. Kiran did not want to burden the already stretched resources. She tried to work various alternatives and got creative. Bedi stationed one armed night patrol policeman accompanied by six civilian volunteers to scan their respective villages. Anonymous reporting of crime leads was encouraged by installing a complaint box system called "beat box". Regular and high involvement policing, instilled the villagers’ faith in this policing system. Within 3 months, there was a considerable amount of reduction in crimes. Illicit liquor businesses were identified and shut down. Drop in cases of eve teasing and domestic violence were noted. Women gained confidence and came out to contribute. Kiran kept her constables' team pepped up by patrolling with them, thus keeping their self-esteem raised.
We are all familiar with the traffic situations in the city where large events take place. In 1982, the Asian Games were held at Delhi. Kiran Bedi was in-charge. Kiran raised sponsorship money by presenting traffic management plans. Educational material was created, instructions for traffic management were drawn, she bought patrol jeeps. She enforced spot fines over challans. Illegally parked vehicles were towed. These strict, no-nonsense-tolerance ways got her the name "Crane Bedi". Nonetheless detailed planning and preparation showed positive results. The Asian Jyoti was awarded to her for brilliant management.
Bedi has always been a go getter; she never had two thoughts. Her motto could easily be 'It is always possible' and 'Dare to do' (her words). However, while Bedi brought about positive reforms, she has also been infamous for her rough, only black or white ways. Rumor has it that she was transferred to Goa because of her boisterous ways; she once towed a PM office vehicle for wrong parking. But nothing could dampen her spirits. While in Goa (1983) she declared the Zuari Bridge open by physically removing boulders and letting vehicles pass. Thus, easing the tense transportation challenges in the Union Territory caused due to an indefinite delay in the inauguration of the bridge by the PM.
Over years, a job in the Indian Police Services has become a cliche for a comfortable lifestyle. Bedi has shown us what all is possible. As a DCP in 1986, Bedi formed drug addiction treatment centers. These centers were created within police premises thus optimizing existing infrastructure. Bedi once again set an example with her revolutionary thoughts. Her initiative was widely noticed across the country. She visited cities far and wide to take seminars to enable more units to duplicate the model.
Kiran Bedi is an example of courage and persistence. Various democrats have been caught by Bedi and framed for either corruption or illegal actions. Most, shoved under the covers by other government servants. These highly placed citizens tried using muscle power against Bedi, but she did not budge. She remained a faithful servant of the country. There have been lawyers, politicians, and even former advisors of Kiran Bedi who have had to face her cane (literally). In a lawyer's strike in 1988, Bedi took to lathi charge; to keep at bay the lawyers who had turned into a mob. A suspension was demanded and Delhi courts stopped functioning in protest. The Union Government succumbed albeit ordering only a transfer for Bedi and few from her team. Such have been the stories of her valour.
Kiran pursued her PhD research and began writing her autobiography after this fiasco. She requested for a posting in Mizoram. Her request was accepted because there was no other officer willing to relocate to a place with difficult climate and terrain. The Indo-Burmese border opioid drug smuggling was uprooted by Kiran. However, she faced condemnation for her attempts on reduction of alcohol abuse as the rice liquor (Zu) was part of the culture. While Kiran dealt with this, her daughter, Sukriti, was confronted by student agitations; when she applied for a seat in a medical college under 'Mizoram residents' quota. Sukriti was technically right however, was asked to surrender her seat by the Chief Minister. Kiran repudiated this action. The Bedi family had to flee for their lives from a violent crowd.
Dr. Kiran Bedi has kept her head held up as she went on doing her 'karma'. Converting Tihar Jail from a place of darkness to a redressal center wouldn’t have been a cakewalk. Our lady in khakis arranged for separate living quarters for hardened criminals and petty thieves; began meditation classes; opened a library; started yoga and vocational training. Tihar, now, has its own detoxification center, bank, bakery, carpentry and weaving units; proceeds of which build the prisoners' welfare fund. Who would have ever thought of such a reform!
This visionary lady went on to be the first citizen police advisor at the United Nations. She retired from the forces in 2007. Today, at 70, Dr. Kiran Bedi is the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. "She keeps furthering her cause of better education, zero-tolerance violence and serving people."
(Title borrowed from Dr. Kiran Bedi's book It Is Always Possible: One Woman's Transformation of India's Prison System)
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