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Chronicles of a Fearless Officer

A fearless reformer, an Asian Tennis Champion, India’s first and highest ranking woman officer, Police Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, Dr. Kiran Bedi wears her string of illustrious accomplishments with a detached nonchalance. Effortlessly, she manages to be firm and determined, with an aura of warmth and modesty.

We watch, in awe, as she speaks about the intricacies of delivering justice, performing with integrity, focussing on education and life after retirement, all the while displaying ingenious flashes of her fiery personality.
L ife, for Dr. Kiran Bedi, was about never having a dull moment. Seated on the plush beige sofa, she exudes a quiet intensity, lighting up the ambience with her contagious laughter. Reminiscing about the early days, she relates, “I knew that I was growing up for a higher purpose, for a crowded life which was meaningful, busy, hardworking and disciplined. I didn’t want to lead an ordinary humdrum life of social parties and shopping. The priority in life was to remain very, very creative. That was the life as a student and from there on, it was continuity of the same disciplined life with timetables, right eating habits and hardcore focus. It still happens and it has just gotten better”.

Before joining the Indian Police Service (IPS), Dr. Kiran Bedi was a lecturer at Khalsa College for Women, Amritsar. “I taught Political Science to graduate classes for two years. I was preparing for the service simultaneously. I still remember that I wouldn’t want to go home in the afternoon or go to the club every day. I wanted to work till late. In a way, I felt that the police service was something which I was meant for. I was physically and mentally fit for the hard work. Being a tennis player, I was used to the heat and physical endurance which the profession demanded. I didn’t mind the sweat and perspiration. If I had chosen something easier than this, I would have been a misfit,” explains Dr. Kiran Bedi with a twinkle in her eye.

A reformer, she introduced a dynamic system with an emphasis on transparency. “The reforms started from the day one of my service because it was a very open policing, full of integrity. It was a complete Gandhian model of policing where only the truth is spoken and written. It was very close to the common man and absolutely fearless. Every policeman had a right to speak and policies would emerge from the ground level. My office was always open to people and it was non-hierarchical. It was a non-violent, truthful and honest policing”, she stresses, proudly.

Shattering stereotypes, Dr. Kiran Bedi created a furore in a predominantly male domain. Did she face any opposition, we wonder. She emphatically declares, “Opposition to my model of policing was enough from vested interests – groups who would be losing out on crime and corruption because they were thriving on it. Powerful parties were having problems and they came in the way. That was when I had to handle them sternly as such people are complete waste of energy. But, the people loved it! Those who were on bail were getting corrected so that they don’t repeat the crime. Bootleggers were rehabilitated to alternative means of livelihood”.

The basis of an honest system, she feels, is a hundred percent honesty. “First of all, you need to be a person of integrity, total courage, fearless with a sense of equality of law. This means that you are not afraid of the powers that be. Despite all opposition, you would uphold the law, come what may. So, you are not sticking to any position – let it come and go. And, that’s what I did. But, I didn’t compromise what the service was meant for. I let those coveted positions go but, wherever I got an opportunity, I delivered. The talisman for me was the equality of law for everyone”, adds Dr. Bedi on an inspiring note.

After her impeccable service to the country, she retired as the highest ranking woman officer in India. Retirement, she believes, has been more hectic than her career. “I still work 19 hours a day. I have been running two non-profit organisations called Nav Jyoti India Foundation and India Vision Foundation. And, the best part is that we are reaching out to 10,000 beneficiaries every single day in education for children, vocational and business schools for the underprivileged. Nav Jyoti has transformed into a community college and we’ve set up four such institutions in urban areas, rural areas and resettlement colonies. It’s IGNOU registered which means that students learn a trade, get certified and prepare themselves for a career. We need more community colleges as a movement because for the country to develop, we need quality education at the grassroots”, she states, passionately.

A versatile individual, Dr. Kiran Bedi believes in living life, queen size in her signature style. “Apart from the Foundations, I conduct a reality TV show called Aap Ki Kacheri where I hear the case and decide on the judgement. Many people were benefitted by it and it has spread an incredible amount of awareness. By public demand, we should soon be starting season three this winter. I anchor a radio show, travel around the world for my documentary film called ‘Yes Madam, Sir’, update my books and write columns for various publications. It’s very demanding and I enjoy it a lot. That’s life and I live each moment with as much joy as I can”, she signs off with her trademark smile.


In moments of fear and doubt: I reflect before making a decision. It’s the duty of any human being before taking important decisions to reflect on the pros and cons when in doubt.

An adjective that describes me best: Hardworking.

Fearless or sensitive: Both.

Religious or spiritual: Spiritual.
Freedom for me is: The core of me. I should be free to make decisions, be independent – financially, psychologically. That’s the oxygen of my life. But, freedom should come with a sense of responsibility.

Childhood was: Disciplined but fun with happy moments along with my parents and sisters. I think that was a great time.

My pillar of strength: My parents.
My siblings: I have three sisters and each of them is simply brilliant. One is a brilliant lawyer in America while my elder sister is a professor in Canada who also runs an art gallery and my youngest sister is in London, working with the National Health Service and is also a senior consultant in autism.

About my family: I was a trendsetter with a very original way of life. It’s like the army style where the man is away and the wife waits for the husband to come back. I think in my case, it was the other way round.

My daughter: Is now married and has a child. She is a wonderful mother and I am so proud of her. My son-in-law is a writer and editor of a magazine.

My favourite sport: Tennis. I was a National Tennis Champion by 16 and an Asian Champion at 20.

My hobbies: I used to paint sometimes- draw portraits and write poetry. The point is that every minute, there was something creative to do. Back when I was a student, it was mostly tennis and studies. And now, it is a lot of reading, exercising and walking. I simply love fitness.

My favourite films: I love inspirational films like Taare Zameen Par, Lagaan and Chak De among others.

My documentary film: Is a 90 minute film called ‘Yes, Madam Sir’, capturing some milestones of my police training days and my tenure as a prison officer. It’s waiting for release.

My message for the youth: There is a tomorrow for you. So, make use of your today to build a better tomorrow.

I admire: People who grew to give like Gandhiji, Swami Vivekananda, Nelson Mandela and other spiritual and public leaders. I also admire strong women like Mother Teresa and Golda Meir. Thinking creators like Narayana Murthy, Rajmohan Gandhi and Dalai Lama continue to inspire me. I read a lot about them.

Secret behind the smile: That’s who I am inside. So, it’s inside out!

India needs: Integrity from everyone and a sense of responsibility. Parent, teacher, politician, leader, Government servant, private practitioner or a corporate- no matter who you are, exercise your responsibility. With integrity and responsibility, India would be a totally different nation.

We have a system where: Corrupt people thrive and we have people who only talk about rights. We need mass scale integrity and a sense of responsibility. By responsibility, I mean exercise your duties while assuring others’ rights as well.

The way I see it: The corrupt are getting richer and having bank accounts overseas while the poor are getting poorer.

The role reversal: Integrity on a large scale can get the corrupt isolated or make them a minority.

The way forward: Is by improving education at the bottom level. We are not preparing children for work. We are just making them literate. Education for 90% of our children is incomplete. So, we have a whole lot of literate population which is raring to work and earn but is not ready. We need more career counselling and personality development.

Free education is: Useless if there is no quality. The government should allocate enough funds for quality education with qualified teachers. NGOs can do only to a certain extent. If we were to give free education, why should it be poor? Education quality, especially at ground level, cannot suffer.


Dr. Kiran Bedi is said to have fined our late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi when her car had been wrongly parked and it had to be towed away. “She was very dignified about it but it was her chamchas who stirred up a storm. I think that was a very large message that the rule is for all”, says Dr. Bedi.


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