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In conversation with Dr Kiran Bedi
Kiran Bedi, a retired IPS officer and social activist talks about prison reforms, police reforms, her opinion on physical abuse of women and most of all her latest television show, Aap ki kachehri, that has won heavy TRP ratings in India.

IF I was to talk about the best moment of my life, it was interviewing Dr Kiran Bedi, India's first and highest ranking women police officer. A dynamic social activist, she is also the founder of two NGOs in India; Navjyoti for welfare and preventive policing and India Vision Foundation for prison reforms, drug abuse prevention and child welfare. I spoke to her about prison reforms, police reforms, her opinion on physical abuse of women and most of all her latest television show, Aap ki kachehri that has won heavy TRP ratings in India.

Spriha: From your perspective, tell me about the day care project that is being run by your organisation at Tihar prison?

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Kiran:Well if you don't have it doesn't exist. Because we value a child's time and that's how this project began because we may stop growing as adults but the child grows very rapidly. A child needs health, nutrition, environment, education, care, love, nursing; so that's what I did.

When I went to the prison, there was nothing for the child separately so the child was almost an adult, living an adult life with their mothers. And the only thing they had to play with was those insects and cats moving around. And the only journey that the child would have was to go out to the courts and learn the language of the lawyers and the courts and the sections of law, the language of cruelty and violence which was going out between the accused and the perpetrator or the victim.

So that is the time when we started within our system, a separate place in the women's ward which had about forty-fifty children. We started a temporary arrangement and begged and borrowed for starting a play way. So with the play way, we told the mothers that they won't be allowed to take the children to the courts because the child has to get away from the super adult violent language. So that's the beginning. We put them in uniform and for the first time we brought in the concept of a child's life inside an adult women prison.

S: In context of the Indian Police System, what reforms do you think are required by the system?

K: Oh, It has plenty to do. It needs to be upside down. Upside down means a million plus. Constabulary needs to be fully attended to. That's the main base and foundation of the Indian Police. So the IPS is just about 3000-4000 in a one and a half million people. So on one side you have the leadership of senior cops called the Top Cops but the million and a half base needs to be really worked on. Where to begin?

S: Can a common man help in anyway?

K: To become law abiding. Because if he/she is law abiding then that much less pressure on the creaking police force.

S: What about the women police officers? Have they made their place in the police force?

K: Well they made their presence but no impact yet. They have not been given position to assert. They have actually been denied positions to assert, they have been kept away. So that they don't make a difference or leave a footprint. The society wants it but the male leadership must want a different footprint. There is a very long way to go.

S: But what is your message to those thousands of women who are suppressed and physically abused every day in their homes but are scared to raise their voice?

K: They have to be aware of what they want. They want to continue to be harassed or abused or beaten or victims of harassment. It'0s their choice. The law is on their side now. The domestic violence act is on their side. If they read the domestic violence act and stop the violence from day one, it will go a long way in better quality of life. If they can spend hours watching television shows and movies, can't they spend twenty minutes reading the law and then applying the law when needed. There is free legal aid provision in India.

S: You are back with your latest television show, 'Aap ki kachehri'. Tell us more about it?

K: Aap ki Kachehri is envisioned to be a movement of social justice, neighbourhood justice. There is nothing between the victim and police and the Police is inadequate in response many times. Or there is nothing between the victim and the overcrowded court. We need something to come in between them - social justice courts. Aap Ki Kachehri is nothing but a social justice court comprising of educated citizens who know the law and who have the character of credibility and justice.

S: Finally, you have been doing a lot of work. Even after retirement your enthusiasm for work for public service hasn?t gone down. What keeps you going?

K: I believe in doing. And I do as long as I want to do. I believe in contributing and using all the skills or energy that I have to a larger good. That's what my policing stood for always. And now from policing to community service and public life, which is neutral, not political, not based on any one faith. Its humanity is a whole; its cause is a whole. I think it's a great sense of gratitude for what I have that keeps me going. What I have is to give.

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