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Kiran Bedi Urges Diaspora to Join India Against Corruption Movement
BY SUPRIYA D G
Social activist and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi called upon NRIs as well as the international community to unanimously and vocally support a nationwide movement-India Against Corruption which has compelled the Government of India to concede to a joint drafting of a law to institute an Independent Anti-Corruption Authority. Bedi was speaking at the Second Emory Conference on Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding 2011, at the Glenn Memorial Auditorium of Emory University on Sunday. Bedi was also the welcome and keynote speaker at the conference opening session June 17.
In an earlier introduction, Dr Tara Doyle, Senior Lecturer and Director of Tibetan Studies Program in India at Emory, spoke about Kiran Bedi as a “hero” who needed no introduction. Bedi admitted that this was her fourth trip to Atlanta joking that she kept up her presence in the movement against corruption through the internet even though she was overseas.
She credited Ani Agnihotri, founder of the Georgia-Indo American Chamber of Commerce and Indo-Jewish Coalition and currently, President of Asian American Heritage Foundation (AAHF) and Chairman Elect, for making her trip possible.
Bedi was evidently here to garner support for a movement that gained attention following Anna Hazare’s fast and the eviction of Baba Ramdev’s Supporters during his fast last fortnight in Delhi this year.
Bedi launched her over an hour long talk with a presentation based on her personal file of stories and documentation including mostly news reports, collected for over a year and half depicting the dramatic rise of corruption and in her words “its death knell at the Common Wealth Games” A massive telecom scandal, and the appropriation by politicians and bureaucrats of a high-rise in Mumbai meant to house war widows and veterans succeeded in provoking public outrage. Several activists, Anna Hazare, prominent among others and Indians from all walks of life, and across the globe, connected through technology, joined the fight against corruption through mass rallies and online support.
According to Bedi, the civil society’s demands for a Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill or Jan Lokpal Bill, is the need of the hour. Civil society activists have challenged the government version of the Bill which puts the decision of transparency in the hands of politicians. She warned that the “Cobra of corruption was a threat to Indian Democracy” which boasted of a 1163 million electorate with one million women in rural leadership. Bedi claims that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hongkong, was a source of inspiration in formulating the draft for a law that was long overdue. The ICAC in Honkong has been credited with transforming the country into one of the cleanest places in the world. Bedi emphasized that a system of checks and balances was in order so that even the abettor is considered part of the crime. She brought home the point that ninety percent of the corruption was common man’s corruption. She reminded the members of the audience that they experienced corruption from the moment they landed at the airport. A vigilance officer was required to ensure that a claimant had the right to service within a time frame. This would be possible only if there was a larger system in place to forestall corruption, and ensure that basic needs of security and justice was achieved.
Bedi exhorted the Indian diaspora to take active part in the movement by being vocal and taking a stand. She urged the citizens to send emails to the Prime Minister’s Office to expedite the process of the Lokpal Bill and to stage rallies that would attract media attention. She revealed that with the $60 billion repatriated annually, Indians in the United States had a strong stake in the movement. “Indian democracy is coming of ages. The Indian voter is now saying that I vote for you to serve me or I may vote you out” she said, while lamenting over the billions of losses due to corruption and stated that in outcome of the war against corruption, where illegal wealth would be declared national wealth, infrastructure would improve tremendously and India would no longer require foreign aid. “Every voice counts. Every vote counts” she reiterated.
Bedi’s talk focused on national issues but revealed a global implication. In the ensuing Question & Answer session following the talk, she called upon the youth to reach out to the community. “Public service or people service will lead to political involvement and the other way around only creates problems” she responded to a query on how she would motivate a younger, well informed and education generation to join politics. She also added that corporate India needed to look at social responsibility in a larger picture where they were stake holders of the future. She added that by making opportunities to upskill youth and improving educational infrastructure, corporate India would be able to give back to its society.
“After all”, she conceded, “there lies the future market.” This sense of funding and developing community infrastructure such as public education may well be an idea that the society here in the United States could borrow from given the constant and looming threats of school closures and unemployment.
Bedi’s talk did not dwell upon her reformative policing or prison management to which she has devoted more than 35 years. She also did not focus on the two non profit organizations she founded: Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation, which seek to improve the lives of Indians through education, addiction treatment and programs for women and children living in India's slums, rural areas and prisons.
Also little known is the fact that Bedi is an advocate of Vipassana, admitting that meditation changed the course of her life, as with many others, for the better. Bedi implies that simple spiritual practices that are part of daily routine enable the resolution of conflict.
In a parting shot to a query by this reporter on how to minimize violence within homes and communities, Bedi replied “adopt the Gandhian way”.