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Compassion makes women better leaders: Bedi
PANJIM, FEB 10
Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer, recipient of several awards, known for bringing innovative ideas into administration and most importantly, known for courage and compassion was given a very warm welcome by the audience crammed into Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium with some sharing seats and other standing in the aisles and some forced to witness the programme on the screen outside at Kala Academy Panjim on Wednesday. Theme of this lecture the third of DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas organised by Directorate of Art and Culture was: ‘Leadership – Does Gender Matter’.
Dr Kiran Bedi was introduced by Dr Pramod Salgoankar, ex Chairperson of State Commission for Women in presence of Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and Chief Secretary Sanjay Shrivastava. Mrs Bedi said that she was pleasantly surprised at the presence of the CM and remarked – “It is good to see a politician at the festival of ideas as normally politicians run away from ideas”.
She was also nick named ‘Crane Bedi’ as she had the gumption of towing away late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s car for which she, in her own words, was banished to Goa in 1984.
According to her when she was invited for DD Kosambi lecture she dug into her archives and her ‘hard disk’ to revive the old memories and first part of her talk was on her experience as SP Traffic, a post that did not exist prior to her arrival in the State.
Mrs Bedi narrated how with only 20 policemen she would in full strength raid Mapusa, Panjim and Margao on different days giving the impression that the traffic police had a very large contingent. For CHOGM (Common Wealth Heads of Government Meet) held in the State in 1984, she enlisted the help of the students and trained them to control bye-lane traffic as she felt that except for the elite the people of the State were completely left out of this event. She felt heartened that several VIPs stopped to talk to the students.
According tot Mrs Bedi, Zuari bridge which was constructed for CHOGM was not used even months after it’s completion as Indira Gandhi who was supposed to inaugurate the bridge cancelled her visit several times. One day in frustration while she watched cars lined up for the ferry, she decided to remove the barricades leading to the bridge and shouted to those present at the ferry point to follow her. Thus Zuari bridge was inaugurated by this courageous police officer who said that perhaps that is why it is still called Zuari bridge otherwise it might have been called Gandhi bridge.
In another instance she was summoned to apologise to a minister as his car was not allowed to go right up to the entrance for St Xavier’s exposition. In her own words she said, “I am sorry sir I will not apologise”. For Kiran Bedi what mattered was what was in right front of her at that moment and tomorrow did not matter.
Even during her stint in Tihar Jail in Delhi, which was again punishment posting for her, she managed to in her words to “turn the jail into a temple”. She accomplished this with as system of feedback and ‘walking her work’ which according to her are very essential for success. A small wooden box in which prisoners could write complaints and needs and her promise that only she could read what was written as she was the only one with a key to it; not only did she win the trust of the prisoners she also came to know what was going on in the prison.
Eventually her reforms were made a part of the Prisons Act.
For her, leadership is aptly defined by Oliver Goldsmith’s quote: “You can preach a better sermon with your life than your lips”. Leading by example and ‘walking your work’ are essential to leadership. She urged the politicians present also to walk their work and be more accessible to people.
Kiran also had parents who undoubtedly supported and as she said that her parents used to tell her: “No one can prevent you from being exceptional”.
For Kiran Bedi leadership demands integrity and physical mental and spiritual strength in unison; these qualities must work together.
Do women make better leaders? Kiran feels that women have edge over men because of their different biology, fact that they undergo immense pain to bear children, nurture them, connect the family and keep harmony, hence they have ‘emotional quotient’ and extra quality of compassion that is lacking in men. However, she did clarify that this emotional quotient is not exclusive to women and men could cultivate it too; according to her, precisely for this reason Mahatma Gandhi is her idol as he had this emotional quotient, a reason why he was much loved by the people. She also said that she was glad that he was a man and not a woman as he is an example for other men to emulate.
According to Kiran globalization has made women stronger, added to their qualities of capacity to bear pain and nurturing as they now have economic power, higher education and mobility, which was the preserve of the men.
While answering the question of reservation for women in assembly, she felt that this would be a positive move as not only will it correct the imbalance but will also bring the missing ‘emotional quotient’ into our governance.
The audience asked extremely passionate questions that ranged from sexual harassment, lack of trust in the police force, and disillusionment with the politics.
Kiran Bedi profusely praised the Director of Art and Culture for this idea of organising this Festival of Ideas and hoped that this would set and example for other States of the country.
The programme ended with presentation of memento by ex-chief minister of the State, Shashikala Kakodkar.
Should we be surprised that one of most courageous, innovative and compassionate police officer that India produced is a woman?