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India’s Top Cop

Jan
28
2008

India’s first woman police officer is on a mission, and it’s a daunting one: To make India a safer place.

After taking voluntary retirement from the police force last year, Kiran Bedi – known for her no-nonsense, hard-taskmaster style of functioning – is not giving up on the job of trying to make India safe. Disillusioned with the police and its ability to help the common man, she has launched a website – saferindia.com – for those who’ve been unsuccessful in getting the police to hear their case, to log on and send in their complaints.

Kiran Bedi shot to fame in the eighties when she was the Deputy Police Commissioner for Traffic in New Delhi. She towed the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s car for illegal parking. It earned her the nickname, Crane Bedi, a name that has stayed with her since (In India the traffic tow-trucks are popularly referred to as cranes – hence the name.)

That was her moment of fame and after thirty-six hard years in service, late last year she decided to call it quits. Some attribute this to her having been overlooked for the top job as Delhi’s Police Commissioner, a post no one deserved better than her, either in seniority or capability.

One of the first things Bedi did after quitting was to launch saferindia. It’s no surprise. As a long-time member of the city’s police, Bedi is only too aware of the shortcomings and corruption that plague of the police departments in India. This is especially true in Delhi, where getting the police to issue a FIR – First Information Report – can often be a trying and wasted effort. Saferindia.com says Bedi, is intended to be a bridge between the police and the complainant, where one can only send in a grievance when it has not been heard by the former.

And though this may sound a little unusual, there is a sense of duty that pervades the informed Indian citizen today; there’s a growing sense of moral responsibility to step in where the state fails. This is one such example. And this is not all. Kiran Bedi is also working on women empowerment and wants to groom future leaders.

This effort comes at a time when Delhi is seeing a large increase in crime, especially against women and there is a need for renewed measures to curb such violence. It is the dark side of India’s growth story, and papers are awash with reports about rape and murder as women and men, away from their families, separated from the traditions and social restraints of their native villages and towns experience the stresses of modern city life. It’s not an excuse, of course. Also, offenders are rarely caught and, in a lot of cases, when the victim is underprivileged from the lower class – the very folks who often need to work in cities the most desperately – the police do not even register the complaint.

Unfortunately, Saferindia will not prove helpful to those who are too poor and illiterate, as they will probably not be able to log on and register, but it will benefit the middle and lower middle classes who often find it difficult to get themselves heard. And that may well start a kind of reform effort – a noble one from a woman who may have doffed her uniform, but not her duties – that moves India in a new direction.

Share  Posted by Gopika Kaul at 3:44 PM | Permalink

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