Biography of Kiran Bedi – The First Woman IPS

Jul/06/2022 / by Swarnendu Biswas
Kiran Bedi
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

She Radiates Inspiration

Kiran Bedi has the distinction of becoming the first woman IPS (Indian Police Service) officer of India. In the officer ranks in the Indian Police Service (IPS)  Kiran Bedi joined in 1972.

Though her nationwide fame in India has been more due to her tenure as a top-notch no nonsense woman police officer in a male dominated society, but the former IPS officer is also known for her work as a social activist.

Academics and Tennis

Born as Kiran Peshawaria on 9th June 1949, in the city of Amritsar, Kiran Bedi is the second among the four sisters. The age of Kiran Bedi is 73 years.

 She did her graduation with English Honours from Government College for Women in Amritsar, in 1968. Then the 19-year-old won the NCC Cadet Officer Award in the same year.  In 1970, she earned a Master’s degree in Political Science from Panjab University in Chandigarh.

Much later, while she was an IPS officer, Kiran Bedi also earned a Bachelors of Law degree from the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi in 1988, which she followed with a Phd. from IIT Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences, in 1993. Her Phd. thesis was on drug abuse and domestic violence.

While discussing about Kiran Bedi it needs a mention that along with her studies, Kiran Bedi also continued excelling in tennis, which she began playing from the age of nine. She has had won titles at several national and state level tennis championships during 1965-1978 which included Junior National Lawn Tennis Championship in 1966; Northern India Lawn Tennis Championship in 1970; Asian Lawn Tennis Championship in 1972; All India Interstate Women’s Lawn Tennis Championship in 1975; National Women’s Lawn Tennis Championship in 1976 among others.

During 1970-72, she was working as a lecturer at Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar.

A Courageous Act

Her long and distinguished career as an IPS officer was full of moments of valor and significant achievements. She came to limelight in 1978, when she charged a group of dangerous protestors in a clash between two groups who had started brick-batting.

She was armed with only a cane, without any tear gas squad to support her unit. One of the demonstrators ran towards her with a sword, but she courageously charged him with only a cane as well. Eventually, her unit was able to disperse the violent protestors. Kiran Bedi was awarded the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry in 1980 for that highly courageous act; the first of the several recognitions which she was to get in her distinguished career.

Innovative and Fearless

In 1979, she was posted to Delhi’s West District as DCP. The area then had a high crime rate. Within three months, she effectively managed to reduce crimes in the area with her innovative methods of involving civilian volunteers to prevent crimes and allowing anonymous reporting of any knowledge about crimes, though she did not have enough officers needed to prevent the high volume of crime going on in the area.

As DCP (Traffic), her strict handling of errant motorists and towing away of improperly parked vehicles using cranes without any fear and favor helped to alleviate the growing traffic problems in Delhi during the preparation of the 1982 Asian Games. On August 1982, a car belonging to the then India’s Prime Minister’s Office was towed away by sub-inspector Nirmal Singh, as it was wrongly parked.  Kiran Bedi did lend her unequivocal support to Nirmal Singh. By the early 1980s, she already attracted nationwide popularity in India.

As a reward for her good work, she was transferred to Goa despite her request to the home ministry to not transfer her out of Delhi till her daughter’s condition was stable. Her then 7-year-old daughter was seriously ill at that time. The transfer was probably because of her angering the high and mighty in the government because of her strict enforcement of law against some of them who deserved such action.

Her proactive role in correction, de-addiction and rehabilitation of drug abuse victims as DCP of Delhi’s North district and her controversial ordering of lathi charge on striking lawyers gave Kiran Bedi her fair share of bouquets and brickbats during her second professional stint in Delhi.

During her tenure in the then insurgency-prone Mizoram as Deputy Inspector General (Range) she played important role in reducing drug and alcohol-induced criminal behavior in the state and facilitated rehabilitation of the victims of alcoholism.

Prison Reforms

She was again back to Delhi as the Inspector General of Prisons of Tihar Jail, Delhi. Tihar Jail then had a notorious reputation and hardly any police officer wanted to be posted there. During her two-year-long tenure in that challenging post (1993-1995), she introduced a number of reforms in prison management.

The biography of Kiran Bedi should highlight that she initiated several prisoners’ welfare measures such as detoxification programs, yoga, vipassana meditation, literary programs among others. Kiran also arranged vocational training with certificates for prisoners in Tihar, so as to facilitate them to find employment after their release. During her tenure, legal cells were set up in Tihar to help undertrials languishing in jail and petition boxes were set up where prisoners could write to the IG about any issue concerning them.

At the same time Kiran Bedi also arranged for separate barracks for hardened criminals, most of whom were engaged in recruiting gang members, selling contraband and extorting money.

Soon Kiran Bedi’s efficient and visionary administration led to drop in fights and disturbances in Tihar Jail. Even the segregated hardened criminals started behaving well.

No wonder, her prison reform program garnered global recognition. In 1994, she  got Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Nehru Fellowship. However, her detractors were also many who accused her of compromising prison’s security for her own personal glory.  

Recognition from the UN

During her illustrious career as an administrator, Kiran Bedi had also worked with the United Nations in New York as the Civilian Police Advisor to the Secretary General, in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. Her work in that tenure earned her a UN medal.

In 2007, Kiran Bedi applied for the position of Delhi’s Police Commissioner but her junior Yudhvir Singh Dadwal was chosen for the position, reportedly because many senior bureaucrats perceived her to be too outspoken and radical.  

In the same year, Kiran Bedi voluntarily retired from police service. She was Director General at the Bureau of Police Research and Development at that time. As reason behind the voluntary retirement, she said she wanted to focus on academic and social work.

Social Commitment

Besides being a tough and as well as a humane police officer, Kiran Bedi has attracted renown as a social activist too. She is the Founder of two NGOs, which are named Navjyoti India Foundation and India Vision Foundation.

Kiran and her colleagues co-founded Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation in 1987, which was renamed as Navjyoti India Foundation in 2007. It began as a drug-addiction rehabilitation initiative but now covers other social issues like illiteracy and women empowerment in its ambit. She founded India Vision Foundation in 1994, whose area of work involve police reforms, prison reforms, women empowerment and rural and community development.  

Political Failure

Kiran Bedi also had a brief stint in politics, which was nowhere as successful as her glorious tenure as an administrator and a social worker. She joined Bharatiya Janata Party in 2015. She was projected as BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate for Delhi, in the Delhi assembly elections.

However, she lost from Krishna Nagar constituency to AAP candidate SK Bagga. Moreover, AAP came to power with absolute majority in the Delhi Assembly elections.

As BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Kiran Bedi declared movable and immovable assets worth over Rs 11.65 crore, belonging to her and her husband. However, there is no authentic information of the net worth of Kiran Bedi in the present.

Lieutenant Governor and Author

She also served as the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Puducherry from 29th May 2016 to 16th February 2021.

Despite her extremely busy schedule in high-ranking positions, Kiran Bedi has also authored several books, which include It’s Always Possible: One Woman’s Transformation of Tihar Prison; Empowering Women…As I See…; Be the Change: Fighting Corruption among many others.


To whom was Kiran Bedi married to?

Her husband was Brij Bedi, who expired in 2016.

When did Kiran Bedi enter politics?

She formally joined politics in 2015 when she joined BJP.

When did Kiran Bedi began her IPS career?

She joined IPS in 1972.


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