Kiran Bedi (born 9 June 1949) is a retired Indian Police Service officer, social activist, former tennis player and politician who is the current Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. She is the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1972. She remained in service for 35 years before taking voluntary retirement in 2007 as Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development.
As a teenager, Bedi became the national junior tennis champion in 1966. Between 1965 and 1978, she won several titles at national and state-level championships. After joining IPS, Bedi served in Delhi, Goa, Chandigarh and Mizoram. She started her career as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Chanakyapuri area of Delhi, and won the President’s Police Medal in 1979. Next, she moved to West Delhi, where she brought a reduction in crimes against women. Subsequently, as a traffic police officer, she oversaw traffic arrangements for the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi and the 1983 CHOGM meet in Goa. As DCP of North Delhi, she launched a campaign against drug abuse, which evolved into the Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation (renamed to Navjyoti India Foundation in 2007).
In May 1993, she was posted to the Delhi Prisons as Inspector General (IG). She introduced several reforms at Tihar Jail, which gained worldwide acclaim and won her the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994. In 2003, Bedi became the first Indian woman to be appointed as a Police Advisor to Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. She resigned in 2007, to focus on social activism and writing. She has written several books, and runs the India Vision Foundation. During 2008–11, she also hosted a court show Aap Ki Kachehri. She was one of the key leaders of the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement, and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in January 2015. She unsuccessfully contested the 2015 Delhi Assembly election as the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate. On 22 May 2016, Bedi was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
Bedi was born on 9 June 1949 in Amritsar, in a well-to-do Punjabi business family. She is the second child of Prakash Lal Peshawaria and Prem Lata (née Janak Arora). She has three sisters: Shashi, Reeta and Anu. Her great-great grandfather Lala Hargobind had migrated from Peshawar to Amritsar, where he set up a business. Bedi’s upbringing was not very religious, but she was brought up in both Hindu and Sikh traditions (her grandmother was a Sikh). Prakash Lal helped with the family’s textile business, and also played tennis. Bedi’s grandfather Muni Lal controlled the family business, and gave an allowance to her father. He cut this allowance when Bedi’s elder sister Shashi was enrolled in the Sacred Heart Convent School, Amritsar. Although the school was 16 km away from their home, Shashi’s parents believed it offered better education than other schools. Muni Lal was opposed to his grandchild being educated in a Christian school. However, Prakash Lal declared financial independence, and went on to enroll all his daughters, including Kiran, in the same school. Bedi started her formal studies in 1954, at the Sacred Heart Convent School in Amritsar. She participated in National Cadet Corps (NCC), among other extra-curricular activities. At that time, Sacred Heart did not offer science; instead, it had a subject called “household”, which was aimed at grooming girls into good housewives. When she was in Class 9, Bedi joined Cambridge College, a private institute that offered science education and prepared her for matriculation exam. By the time her former schoolmates at Sacred Heart cleared Class 9, she cleared Class 10 (matriculation) exam. Bedi graduated in 1968, with a BA (Honours) in English, from Government College for Women at Amritsar. The same year, she won the NCC Cadet Officer Award. In 1970, she obtained a master’s degree in political science from Panjab University, Chandigarh. From 1970 to 1972, Bedi taught as a lecturer at Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar. She taught courses related to political science. Later, during her career in the Indian Police Service, she also earned a law degree at Delhi University in 1988 and a Ph.D. from IIT Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences in 1993