A woman of many accolades, Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer, has inspired many people to take up the charge of their own lives. Take a look at her life.
Kiran Bedi is India’s first and one of the highest-ranking woman police officers. A self-taught feminist and a global icon, Kiran Bedi is known for her reformative policing and prison management. She joined the Indian Police Service back in 1972, emerging as a symbol of empowerment in a male-dominated bastion.
In a country where law enforcement officials are largely perceived as corrupt and inefficient, Kiran set the record straight with her ‘no-nonsense attitude,’ and her unconventional policing.
In a career spanning 35 years, she held several positions of importance, including the Director-General, Bureau of Police Research and Development, before she opted for voluntary retirement.
In 2003, she also became the first Indian and first woman to be appointed as head of the United Nations Police, and Police Advisor in the United Nations Department of Peace Operations.
Kiran is also a leading social activist, and the founder of two women-centric NGOs — Navajyoti (1988) and India Vision Foundation (1994).
Presently, Kiran is the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, a post she has held since 2016.
Quest for learning
Not many know but Kiran — who was born in a Punjabi household in 1949 — has always been erudite and a keen learner. She holds a doctorate in Social Sciences from IIT Delhi, and also completed her Masters in Political Science from the Delhi University.
As someone who has always believed ‘there’s no end to learning,’ Kiran went on to pursue her Law degree from the Delhi University, and also graduated in English Honours.
It is interesting to note that Kiran didn’t start her career as a police officer. Instead, she worked as a lecturer of Political Science at Khalsa College from 1970-72.
A fearless civil servant
Kiran was always passionate about working for the country and being a part of the legal system. For this reason, choosing a career in civil services came naturally to her.
Bold and fearless, she revolutionised the police system like no other. With a larger-than-life persona, she became the poster girl of the Indian Police Service, one who took bold decisions without an iota of fear.
She took on several tough assignments, ranging from Traffic Commissioner of New Delhi, Deputy Inspector General of Police in insurgent Mizoram, Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of Chandigarh, as well as the Director-General of Narcotics Control Bureau.
As the Head of Delhi’s Tihar jail — one of Asia’s largest and toughest jails — Kiran introduced reformative practices like yoga, meditation, and literacy programmes for the inmates.
In fact, in 1975, she also garnered media attention for leading an all-male contingent at the Republic Day Parade.
She also earned the moniker ‘crane Bedi,’ for her methods of towing vehicles from wrong parking spots, wherein even the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not spared. The former PM lauded her move and even invited her for lunch.
India’s tennis champion
A woman of several hidden talents — before venturing into the police force — Kiran was a national tennis champion. Encouraged by her father Prakash Lal Peshawaria, who was a master at the game, Kiran and her sister Reeta also picked up the racquet at an early age.
In the 60s’ and 70s’, Kiran and Reeta’s names would be a common feature in newspapers. In 1964, Kiran participated in the National Junior Lawn Tennis championship in Delhi. Although she didn’t win the game, Kiran didn’t lose heart and practised harder, and won the trophy two years later in 1966, and once again in 1972.
Apart from this, she clinched several other coveted titles, including the All-India Hard Court Tennis Championship in 1974, and the All India Interstate Women’s Lawn Tennis Championship in 1975. However, her biggest achievement in tennis came in 1976 when she lifted the National Women’s Lawn Tennis Championship title.
A relentless social activist and politician
Kiran is the founder of two NGOs — Navayoti and India Vision Foundation — that work towards resolving problems faced by women, as well as rehabilitating drug addicts from prison.
The India Vision Foundation is actively working in the prisons of Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
The former IPS officer was also part of Anna Hazare’s campaign in 2011 that aimed to eliminate corruption in the country. In 2015, Kiran ventured into politics by contesting in Delhi elections as a BJP chief ministerial candidate. However, she did not emerge victoriously.
At present, the 71-year-old is serving as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
Kiran’s farsighted vision and relentless service — both in and out of uniform — has won her appreciation the world over. She has received several awards, including the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry (1979), Ramon Magsaysay Award (1994), and Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice (2005).
She also has a television show to her name, ‘Aap ki Kacheri,’ the first-ever legal show on Indian Television.
Kiran has also penned several books, some of which are ‘What went wrong and why?,’ ‘It's always possible,’ and more.
(Edited by Suman Singh)
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