Puducherry is the only Union Territory apart from Delhi to have a local government, a legislative assembly and a council of ministers. Despite being the smallest part of the country to have all of this, it has for lieutenant governor a towering figure who has a reputation of shaking institutions out of their complacency. Dr. Kiran Bedi took over as the town’s lieutenant governor two years ago, and ever since, it hasn’t been business as usual in Puducherry. The Raj Niwas, which occupies an entire block with a huge lawn in front, has for the first time been opened up to the public allowing anyone to walk in and air their grievances to Kiran Bedi. Kiran Bedi is often seen cycling or walking around the city, stopping to help out with the cleaning, instructing officials to bring down illegal hoardings and take action against illegal construction. She has been closely involved with the restoration of several water bodies and the beach, making Puducherry ODF, and making the city a cultural hub. People cannot remember the last they had such a hands-on governor. On her birthday (9th of June), I had the opportunity of asking Kiran Bedi some questions about her two-year stint as the governor, and what her future plans are. Here are some extracts:
You have worked in several places, under several different circumstances, and with many kinds of people before you became the governor of Puducherry. In comparison to those past experiences, how have you found Puducherry and how receptive have the people been?
The scale of constitutional responsibilities I have as Lieutenant Governor is something I have never had before. However I did my maximum with whatever I had in the past. I am doing the same now. Since the canvas is much bigger now, the more we work, the bigger the results.
What are some of your key achievements in Puducherry which other parts of the country, or the world, can take inspiration from or replicate?
I am for holistic and comprehensive system improvements. We must check the decline before we build forward. This provides strong foundations and sustainability to all changes that may happen.
We have checked the decline in certain key areas, and are now moving towards making the difference. The government is an organic whole, and all aspects of governance must be addressed to make qualitative changes to benefit all, and not just some.
Prime Minister Modi has often attempted to bring a change in mentality or consciousness through initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. Have you similarly attempted to bring about a change in mentality or consciousness at any level among the people? How has it worked out?
As I said, the fact that most of the region of Puducherry is becoming open defecation free (ODF) is evidence of that. So is the fact that many water bodies are being recovered. A lot is happening but there is no point in making self assessments. These will be biased. People are the best judge.
We have witnessed several political hurdles you have faced in the last two years. This is nothing new, we have seen it in other union territories of the country too. Is there any way this tussle for power can be stopped? Is there a constructive solution to the crisis?
Yes. One simply keeps persevering in doing what is right for the people of Puducherry with utmost integrity, sensitivity and a sense of urgency.
You’ve always taken the establishment head on whenever you have needed to. You have never backed down. What outcome can we expect of the ongoing power tussle?
There is no power tussle. There is perhaps an urge to do the maximum possible for Puducherry. As long as that is the intention…
Initially, we were under the impression that you would cut your term short. But it doesn’t look like that is happening. What are your future plans for Puducherry?
Perhaps Puducherry may have plans for me. Let’s look at it this way. It may be expecting me to serve it more.
What are your future plans in general? What after Puducherry?
Prosperous Puducherry for all, with a clear vision plan for the decade ahead. We shall release this plan in the first week of November when our Chief Secretary completes a year of service to Puducherry.
Is there anything special you have learned from your two years in Puducherry that you would like to share with the thousands of young Indians reading this interview?
Yes. Experience helps enormously. But every day also teaches you. Remain a learner and an implementer without being anxious about what is next.
Both as a police officer and a governor, you have always acted fearlessly. Is there anything you have learned through the years that the youth of the country can take inspiration from?
The youth has enormous opportunities to be skilled and self-employed. It can educate itself as well as earn. It can even be a part of the administration by being an intern, and learn how the country works. It must stay informed of the opportunities and avail them. All information is available on the net. They must value their time in hand when they are young, and invest it in the right direction.
Where do you see the country going in the next ten years? What are the areas in which we are progressing already, and what are the areas in which we need to do much better?
Every citizen in the country is either an asset or a liability. Every citizen of character and sense of responsibility adds to the good health and wealth of the nation. It depends on what kind of youth we produce. Because that would in sum total the collective character. And also the kind of leadership the country gives itself. Political as well as administrative in the collective character.
On your birthday, tell us what this country has given you, and how each one of us can contribute towards making India a better place.
It gave me my parents, my family, my support systems, my friends, my service , my spiritual roots.
If each one focuses on ones responsibilities as citizens we can all be assured of our rights and enjoy a good quality of life. ‘Every one as per his or her need not greed…’