Policing is a contentious profession the world over. In India, it has spelt ruin for many talented officers whose only fault had been that they adhered to the rule book or tactlessly quoted it at the wrong moment, much to the chagrin of unprincipled political bosses.
I had always admired Kiran Bedi for her courage and unconcealed enthusiasm to change traditional ways of protecting the community. If she had some rough edges and also gave a feeling that she was publicity crazy, they should not stand in the way of an objective assessment of what she did for the institutions she presided over and the qualitative difference she made to them. She did not flinch from the call of duty even if it meant danger to her physically and professionally.
The picture that captured her personally taking charge of a serious law and order situation outside Parliament created by the Akalis in the early 1970s is green in my memory. Her brush with lawyers in the Tis Hazari courts in Delhi was an example of her principled stand, whenever any section of the community took the law into its own hands. A glorious chapter in Kiran Bedi’s career was the tenure at the Tihar Jail, one of world’s most notorious prisons. Her enlightened management that rendered the place utterly humane and modern is something that jail managers everywhere should emulate. Here again she fell foul of the powers that be and was shifted for no justifiable reason whatsoever. It was a tragedy that towards the end of her career she was denied an opportunity to lead the Delhi Police, a loss more to the organisation than to her. Brief spells in the Chandigarh Police and at the Delhi Lieutenant Governor’s Office were punishment postings to an officer who always wanted to be in the limelight in order to serve the community. The choice of Kiran Bedi by the United Nations to head its Civilian Police was a rare honour. Why she chose to come away without finishing her tenure is still a mystery to me.
I DARE is an informative account of the career of India’s first woman IPS officer. It could have read better with fewer excerpts from some inconsequential documents such as the orders issued by the Chandigarh Home Secretary transferring lower level functionaries.
The younger generation of police officers has a lot to learn from her, especially her courage in resisting unethical pressures from outside and her readiness to be on the spot whenever the public peace is disturbed. The reforms she brought about in the Tihar Jail deserve to be studied in all seriousness, if prisons across the country are to be made more humane and civilised.
One interesting thought. Now that it is more than a year since she hung up her boots, would she like to do an introspection of all that she did and of all the faults she had been accused of by her colleagues? Does she think she would still have remained a part of the system — even after the statutory retirement age — had she adopted a lower profile? This suggestion is born out of my anxiety that the current set of officers and those yet to come should get a full perspective of someone who has become a legend in her own lifetime.
The first woman IPS officer did not flinch from the call of duty even if it meant danger to her.
I DARE!: Kiran Bedi; Hay House Publishers India Pvt. Ltd., Muskaan Complex, Plot No 3, B-2, Vasant Kunj,
New Delhi-110070. Rs. 395.