She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: The dark labyrinths of India’s prison system would never have been exposed to sunlight had Kiran Bedi not exercised her humaneness and her unique approach to rehabilitation.
Kiran Bedi – India
She works at Tihar Prison. In 1994, she set up the India Vision Foundation, an NGO that works on prison reform, drug abuse prevention, empowerment of women, and assistance to the mentally disabled.
And see this other good bio about her.
Kiran Bedi (born 1949) is India’s best-known woman police officer. In a ferociously male bastion, she has dug in her heels, using the police service as a vehicle for social change. Kiran, with her firm footing, has been also using the police service as a medium for social change. She sees prisons and jails as an opportunity to bring criminals back to society’s fold, reversing the dehumanization for which prisons are known. She began meditation classes and education and vocational training programs for prison inmates and put in place an unprecedented democratic panchayat system in prisons.
Kiran was born Kiran Peshawaria on 9 June 1949 in Amritsar. The second of four sisters, she comes from a landed family and was the first in her family to join government service. Born just after the horrors of Partition, she grew up in an atmosphere that engendered strong nationalistic feelings.
She started formal education in 1954 at the Sacred Heart Convent School in Amritsar and began playing tennis at the age of nine. She would visit the Service Club with her mother after her tennis lessons, where she met civil servants. Among them were a superintendent of police and a deputy commissioner, who became her role models. The National Cadet Corps, which gave Kiran her “first taste of khaki”, was an important influence.
She graduated from the Government College for Women in Amritsar with Honors in English in 1968. Her interest lay in political science, particularly public administration. Two years later, she completed her Masters in political science and then taught at Khalsa College for Women for a couple of years. Although she was a popular teacher and enjoyed teaching, she realized that the police service was where she wanted to be. In July 1972, Kiran became the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS). It was a benchmark: Ever since she entered the service, every graduating IPS class has had at least one woman.
1972 was also the year Kiran married Brij Bedi, nine years her elder. She had always been determined to select her own partner and to arrange her own wedding. Brij was supportive of her work and admired her courage. Their relationship continues to be mutually supportive. Kiran and Brij have a daughter, Saina, born in 1975.
From the very beginning, Kiran’s approach to her work has been creative and sensitive. Over the years, she has built a reputation as being entirely intolerant of dishonesty and favoritism, traits that have often put her at odds with much of the establishment. While she supports and protects junior officers, she demands their accountability to her and to the public.
Her approach to people who commit crimes is constructive rather than punitive. She makes it clear that she is fair and responsive to their needs, but is nonetheless a tough nut to crack. She sees prisons as an opportunity to bring criminals back into society.
Kiran began experimenting with preventive policing early in her career. Her listing of “history-sheeters”, and keeping tabs on them for corrective and preventive purposes, led to the development of neighborhood watch groups. She encouraged people to police themselves and their neighborhoods. At a time when the police system was hidebound in convention and officials were, by definition, inaccessible, Kiran was totally approachable by the lay public. She would ride the streets in her car, stopping to climb on the car roof and blare over a microphone: “Do you know my beat officer?” This kept her force on its toes. Some senior officers have now adopted Kiran’s open-door policy, her firm belief that transparency and openness are the best precautions against systemic corruption.
During the Ninth Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1982, Kiran received her nickname “Crane Bedi”. Traffic control was a near impossible task, with cars parked helter-skelter. Kiran’s “crane policy” knew no discrimination – she even had the then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s car towed away.
For her pains, she was transferred from her posting as chief of traffic police to the Narcotics Control Bureau. The most crucial work she did here was the establishment of detoxification centers, based on her realization that she could not talk reason with imprisoned criminals suffering withdrawal symptoms. She put aside six police barracks to function as detox centers. The Navjyoti Police Foundation – with which she continues to be associated – was the result of that effort. Today, the Foundation runs adult literacy centers for men and women, children’s education, and vocational training centers.
Kiran’s most revolutionary work was in her posting as inspector general of prisons, in New Delhi. When she took over in May 1993, the Delhi prisons – particularly the infamous Tihar Jail – had more than 9,000 inmates, far above capacity. She decided to begin her work at Tihar, commencing with the education of the prisoners, tailored to suit their needs. She set up a system where prisoners could receive vocational training, work, and earn wages.
She also set about doing the paradoxical: democratizing the prisons. A panchayat system was set up, where inmates could meet every evening with senior officials and sort out their problems. Kiran also organized sports, yoga, prayer and the celebration of festivals. Moreover, she put in place a petition box that she checked herself every day – a system that gave the prisoners direct, unfettered access to her.
Of all these measures, the organization of Yogic Vipassana meditation classes for prisoners won her national and international acclaim. None of this, however, could prevent her transfer in May 1995. The famous journalist-writer Khushwant Singh said about her transfer that it was “a victory for a handful of small-minded, envious people over a gutsy woman”.
Undeterred, Kiran has continued to speak out on issues that move her. She actively engages in human rights, women’s rights, and police reform. She believes that every woman should make independent decisions – and stand by them. Such a woman, she says, “does not look for a shoulder to weep on”.
Kiran and her work have become a benchmark in the nascent imprisonment-and-rehabilitation process in the country. Hers is the voice of the incarcerated and the forgotten in India’s gargantuan and Byzantine prison system. It is also a catalyst in changing the traditional approach to crime and criminals. Kiran herself never doubted that it would: “If you look to do something, it is always possible.”
Awards and recognitions: Police Medal for Gallantry in 1979; Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Solidarity Woman-of-the-Year Award in 1980; Distinguished Woman Award (given by Banaras Hindu University) and the Shiromani Award in 1982; Asia Region Award for her work in the field of drug prevention, and the National Award for Outstanding Service by a Government Official in 1989-91 (presented by the Norwegian organization, the International Organization of Good Templars); Award for outstanding contribution to the Asia-Pacific Conference and the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1992; Nehru Fellowship (from the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund) in support of her innovative and humane management at Tihar Prison.
Another interview with UN Cronicle.