Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, IN

Published Date: 6th April 2017

Open Windows | In Conversation

Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, IN

April 6th, 2017

Much like the impressive 19th-century architecture (the world over), the invisible engineering that ultimately shapes the structure of an outstanding person is one constructed with a conscience. Dr. Kiran Bedi, IPS (retd), a police officer and leader par excellence is one such individual. In the rising of her well-defined life, Dr. Bedi braves through rebuttals and punishments—a price she pays for adhering to her principles—fearlessly forging ahead.

Dr. Kiran Bedi’s meteoric rise has taken her from the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) to Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development and from the first woman appointed as a Police Advisor to Secretary-General of the United Nations (Department of Peace Keeping Operations) to her current position as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry [a union territory in India]. With her refreshing, vibrant tapestry, Dr. Kiran Bedi has single-handedly influenced society and changed the trajectory for children and women in society.

By bringing her framework of conscience and self-policing into her professional command, Dr. Bedi gives us a clear reference to her commitment, bestowing us the right to exercise our voice and execute our conscience.

What were the childhood behavioral indicators that demonstrated your conscientiousness?

My recall that I never had to be told to work hard, or do my home work, or needed to be watched if I was sincerely studying or playing.


What makes a child conscientious?

I think one is born with it, and thereafter it gets nourished as one grows up in an environment that is enriching.


How can environments—home, school, and society—nurture conscience?

Role models…in any parent or teacher. Love and gratitude toward parents. Or even trying circumstances at home, but with a positive attitude to overcome obstacles.


Children often wrestle with contradictory messages—discipline and accountability in school versus permissiveness and irresponsibility at home and society. How can children retain their conscience in environments stripped of value?

It’s too much for a child at that nascent age to be able to grapple with this contradiction. However, if the person is born with a strong sense of conscience, then it could flourish as soon as the inhibiting factors get weakened or surmounted.


In addition to conscience, what factors positively mold a child?

Primarily the home and family, then the school and friends (equally negatively too), as well as the activities and the environment the child is placed in time to time.


Is our brain chemistry affected by kindness?

Yes, surely…yes all others too, such as violence, or crude behaviour. Also, the sanitation, if the surrounding is clean or unhygienic.


How can schools tailor kindness as part of the curriculum?

Lots of stories, movies, books, examples, role playing, situations of pain, and suffering to be felt, not just read…but reinforced by seeing and feeling.


I appreciate your thoughts on courage: “I grew in courage.” Can you share a specific way of life to explain what “growing in courage” means?

An environment of doing under watch with guidance. Always made to do…encouraged to take small risks and decisions. Also inspired to speak up. Believe in myself when I am in the right. Not get overawed by rank, status, or shine…trust in merit and righteousness. Go into competitive sports not to beat someone but to win for yourself and to keep raising your own bar. Therefore, welcome competition and participate fully with a sense of joy, not stress.


You come from a stable financial background, which often strengthens a child’s core to blossom into more of who they are. How can children from poor socio-economic families learn to cement and nurture their courage?

Parental guidance of doing is not dependent on financial status. It is in their beliefs, in their conduct, in their character, in their expression of a sense of responsibility, and in the quality of their guidance. It is in their value system. It’s not in things, but thinking.


How did you develop an appreciation for cleanliness? And how has this respect translated into supporting virtuous environments?

It’s about orderliness against clutter. It’s also about personal discipline and respect for others. It’s the belief doing unto others what I want to be done unto myself.


Does cleanliness increase productivity?

One hundred percent.


Can cleanliness exist without truth?

No. It cannot and does not. It’s then falsehood. It’s show.


In India, the affluent find it beneath them to care for their personal belongings and clean their homes. From where does this shame stem?

False sense of status and poor upbringing.


What is the root of corruption?

Greed that stems from insecurity, where enough is never enough.


What makes some people immune to greed while others’ are susceptible to greed?

Self-pride. With a deep sense of internal security and self-reliance. And besides that some habits and traits are inborn.

Our lives are island’s worthy of goodness and attention. And yet some people choose to foster unworthiness—evade taxes, launder money, grab land, immerse in gossip, violate boundaries, etc. Why does an individual think and act in ways making him unfit of credibility and respect?

They suffer from inadequacies. They are insecure people. They hide their deficiencies by a false show. They live an articulate life cheating themselves. They are unhealthy within.


Corruption requires complicity. Why do people who actively participate in deceit and bribes each day pretend that corruption is orchestrated by a “faraway” structure called the Government?

They are looking for justification of their own helplessness and their own unethical needs.


Over the decades, I have witnessed well-placed people—actors to bureaucrats and World Bank officials to diplomats—misuse their position. Does entitlement stem from a deep unworthiness?

These are false lives. Their cause of living is consumption, not causes.


I have often heard apathetic and corrupt people repeatedly say: “I just want to be happy.” Is selfishness linked to corruption?

They do not know the real meaning of happiness. Happiness is accepting to be in the moments as is and not as it ought to be.


Moments of despair can make a man succumb to give a bribe. What can a man do when he has no alternative?

It’s the purpose which will decide who and what it is for.


I quote you: “I had the power of the law to enforce order.” How did your designation and police uniform aid your inherent character? Can women and men who don’t have this power implement their integrity?

For me power has been in alignment with my inner being. Power is not something external; it is internal. And the desire to help comes from your inbuilt value system.

Why are individuals with an uncompromising character and commitment perceived as a threat?

Because they make others feel insecure and small.


What are some forms of punishments imposed on people practicing ethics and integrity?

Making them work harder.


What makes the integration of enforcing law and order with positive reinforcement effective?

Wining people’s trust. And the rewards people receive.


Does self-policing manifest in quality governance or does quality structure bring about honest governance?

Self-policing enriches governance. Self-policing is independent. It is personal. It’s a self-choice.

How do you navigate through moments of vulnerability?

With awareness—self-talk, self-observation, and self-analysis, and a sense of personal responsibility. You are always showing yourself the mirror.


You serve your life mission each day. When you started as a young police officer, did you have any idea of the impact you will have on children and society at large?

No, I did not.


What prepares you for taking on additional responsibilities in each phase of your life?

Life energy as a gift for a higher purpose. And that it is passing. Hence, do not let it go. I am grateful and treasure this energy.


Is a life of eminent service possible without great sacrifice?

Yes, it is acceptance; it is by choice and not regret.


What helps you maintain your optimism?

By remaining realistic and reducing expectations. I don’t hang on to and live in the past. It’s a conscious habit, nurtured daily.



To learn more about Dr. Kiran Bedi, IPS, please visit her website.