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Gender’s worked for Bedi

The myth about Kiran Bedi’s ‘excellent track record’ can be shattered if one follows her performance as a police officer, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2007 23:34 IST
Pankaj Vohra

What was shocking about Kiran Bedi’s histrionics was that she blamed everyone from the Prime Minister to both the new as well as outgoing Police Commissioners for what she claimed had been an “unfair decision”. But it was Bedi’s track record that came in the way of her becoming the Commissioner of Delhi Police. Television channels, which gave precedence to Bedi’s outpourings, over the swearing-in ceremony of the country’s first woman President, projected the issue as one of gender bias and how Bedi was not permitted to occupy her rightful place under the sun. The matter was made to look like a decision driven by male domination. What was painful and unfortunate was that no one seemed to realise that Bedi’s exalted position in the media and in society is because she is a woman and, moreover, the first woman IPS officer. Gender has always worked in her favour, never against her.

It was because she was a woman that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi invited her for breakfast at her residence while Bedi was still an IPS probationer, possibly serving as the SDPO of Chanakyapuri. Kiran Bedi has acquired a larger-than-life image, one which demonstrates her mastery of the art of ‘marketing’ herself at a time when many MBAs were still struggling to understand what ‘marketing’ was all about. Her actions have always managed to highlight her persona more than her causes. It was routine that her image loomed larger than the system she worked in. She is now debunking the very system that allowed her to grow over the years, ignoring dozens of mistakes and indiscretions on her part. The media were happy to portray these indiscretions as acts of courage partly because she enjoyed certain concessions which others did not. The concessions were on account of her being a woman IPS officer in a male-dominated police force.

However, what needs to be borne in mind is that Kiran Bedi was elevated to the rank of DGP, which many in the police force think was not justified given her poor track record, only because considerations other than those shown in her service record were taken into account. Her stint in the United Nations and her winning the Magsaysay award helped her get to where she did in the service. Had it not been so, and had only her track record been taken into consideration, she would have not made it to her current senior rank. In fact, a male police officer may not even have been part of the IPS with so many indiscretions in his record.

The myth about her ‘excellent track record’ can be shattered if one follows her performance as a police officer. Bedi must be one of the very few IPS officers in the country who has not been awarded the two medals — the Police Medal of Meritorious Service (after 15 years service) and the Police Medal for Distinguished Service (after 21 years), which everyone gets as a matter of routine. She has had difficulty in completing her tenures anywhere. She has always left her postings under circumstances which would have attracted extreme disciplinary action had Bedi not been a woman and media darling.

For instance, she was in Goa during the CHOGM in the early 1980s and left her post after a disagreement with the Secretary, R&AW and DIB without informing her immediate superior. She was in Mizoram where an agitation erupted because of her and she left for Delhi quietly without informing her boss who discovered to his horror that the operational officer was missing from her post only when he inquired about her the following day. In Delhi, she had a controversial tenure in the West District. As Traffic DCP, she is remembered as “Crane” Bedi, but she had to vacate the position on account of her mishandling of the traffic problem.

As DCP North in 1988, she got into a major problem with Tis Hazari lawyers. A committee headed by Justice DP Wadhwa, then a sitting Judge of the Delhi High Court, passed severe strictures against her. The report virtually established that Bedi had hatched a conspiracy along with a Congress corporator and also used some criminals so that they, with a mob, could attack the lawyers demanding her ouster. Justice Wadhwa, who later became a Supreme Court Judge, also questioned her credentials and raised doubts about her integrity.

The report was later presented in Parliament with an assurance to the lawyers who went on a 99-day strike that she will never be posted in the capital in any important position. Justice Wadhwa’s report also has observations which show how her proximity with the then Home Minister, Buta Singh, helped bail her out. Curiously, the report is not traceable in the Home Ministry anymore. Bedi, after that, was never allowed to hold a field posting and was never made additional or joint commissioner of either the Range or Traffic. Subsequently, she headed Tihar Jail and invited the wrath of the then Lt. Governor P.K. Dave over a violation where he expressed his displeasure at allowing foreigners to go into the jail premises to meet Kashmiri separatists. Her stint in Chandigarh was also shortlived when she returned after differences with the administrator.

The point is that what track record is Bedi talking about? The manner in which she has behaved this time round is precisely why she has not got the coveted post. She needs to understand that being outspoken is not the same thing as being competent and a good leader. Even Lt. Governor Tejinder Khanna, who indeed tried to help her, must have been visibly embarrassed and certainly wiser on seeing her histrionics on television. She is a part of the system she is debunking. She chose to join the IPS and, therefore, the system and she must not lose sight of the propriety which goes with it. Ved Marwah and Gautam Kaul, two officers she has been citing, never went public with their disappointments. Marwah was overlooked when P.S. Bhindar, two years his junior, was made the Delhi Police Commissioner in 1980. Marwah became one of the best CPs subsequently. Gautam Kaul’s entire 1965 batch was ignored for the CP’s job and 1966 officers — V.N. Singh and Ajai Raj Sharma occupied the post subsequently. One should know that all professors in the university do not become Vice-Chancellors. No position is anyone’s birthright. One has to perform first and leave the rest to destiny. In her case, a conflict with lawyers would have started on the first day itself.

Bedi must quieten down and not further embarrass the toothless officers of the Home Ministry who would have acted against anyone else in her place many times over, but seem to be very scared to face her unjustified wrath. She is an icon for many and must know that her status has nothing to do with her questionable track record as a police officer. Between us.