If you have been associated with India in the 1980s and 1990s, there is a good chance you have heard of super cop Kiran Bedi.
Born on June 9, 1949, Kiran Bedi became the first woman officer in the IPS (Indian Police Service) in 1972. She was born in Amritsar, Punjab to parents Prakash Peshawaria and Prem Peshawaria. She is the second of four daughters. Her three sisters are; Shashi, an artist settled in Canada, Reeta, a clinical psychologist and writer, and Anu, a lawyer. She attended the Sacred Heart Convent School, Amritsar, where she joined the NCC (National Cadet Corps). She took up tennis and won the Junior National Lawn Tennis Championship in 1966, the Asian Lawn Tennis Championship in 1972, and the All-India Interstate Women's Lawn Tennis Championship in 1976. In addition, she also won the All-Asian Tennis Championship, and won the Asian Ladies Title at the age of 22.
On the personal front, in 1972, Kiran Bedi married Brij Bedi, a textile machine manufacturer whom she met at the Amritsar tennis courts. In 1975, they had daughter Saina, who is now also involved in community service. In one of her lectures to a corporate meeting, Kiran Bedi expressed her belief that everyone in society has an important role to play which will enable others to fulfill their duties (or important tasks), quoting the example of her uneducated housemaid whose help in Bedi's daily household work had helped Bedi to complete an important task of writing a book.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English (Hons.) from the Government College for Women, Amritsar in 1968. She then earned a Master’s degree in Political Science from Punjab University, graduating at the top of her class in 1970. She later obtained a Bachelors degree in Law in 1988 from University of Delhi. In 1993, she obtained a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the Department of Social Sciences, IIT – Delhi, where the topic of her thesis was 'Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence’.
She began her career as a Lecturer in Political Science at Khalsa College for Women, Amritsar. In 1972, she joined the IPS and served on a number of tough assignments ranging from New Delhi traffic postings, Deputy Inspector General of Police in Mizoram, Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of Chandigarh, Director General of Narcotics Control Bureau, to a United Nations delegation, where she became the Civilian Police Advisor in United Nations peacekeeping operations. For her work in the UN, she was awarded a UN medal. She is popularly referred to as Crane Bedi for towing the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's car for a parking violation, during the PM's tour of United States at the time.
Kiran Bedi influenced several decisions of the Indian Police Service, particularly in the areas of Narcotics Control, Traffic management, and VIP security. During her stint as the Inspector General of Prisons, in Tihar Jail (1993–1995), she instituted a number of reforms in the management of the prison, and initiated a number of measures such as detoxification programs, Art of Living Foundation Prison Courses, yoga, vipassana meditation, and literacy programs. For this she won the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay Award, and the 'Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship', to write about her work at Tihar Jail.
She was last appointed as Director General of India's Bureau of Police Research and Development. In December 2007, she voluntarily retired from the police force to undertake new challenges in life.
In May 2005, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Law in recognition of her “humanitarian approach to prison reforms and policing”.
Kiran Bedi has also been involved in social causes for a long time. She along with 17 other police officers set up the Navjyoti India Foundation (NIF) in 1987. It started with a de-addiction and rehabilitation initiative for drug addicts. Now the organization has expanded to other social issue like illiteracy and women empowerment. In 1994, Bedi setup India Vision Foundation which works in the field of police reforms, prison reforms, women empowerment and rural and community development. Her efforts have won national and international recognition, and her organizations were awarded the "Serge Soitiroff Memorial Award" for drug abuse prevention by the United Nations.
More recently, Kiran Bedi has been prominently involved with the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement along with Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. IAC has been actively protesting against corruption and is urging the government of India to enact a strong Lokpal Bill.