Awards - Ramon Magsaysay

Magsaysay Award


Citation of the Ramon Magsaysay Award
for Government Service -1994

No social relationship in Asia is more fraught with ambiguity than that between the police and the people. Called upon to maintain order and public safety, and to manage the region’s paralyzing traffic, the police provide essential civilizing services. Yet, nearly everywhere their reputation is tarnished by incompetence and abuses, large and small. For too many people, the police are not a positive good, only a necessary evil. Kiran Bedi, India’s highest ranking female police officer and currently Delhi’s inspector general of prisons, believes the police can do better.
    Taught by her unconventional parents to complete and to “to think equally”,
BEDI excelled both at school and at tennis, the family passion. She sailed through college and a masters degree and, in 1972, at the age of twenty-two, won the women’s lawn tennis championship of Asia. That same year she entered the police academy and, in 1972, become the first woman to enter the elite Indian Police Service. Assigned to the capital city, BEDI rose rapidly in the ranks, winning national acclaim  — and a presidential award — in 1978 by single-handedly driving off a band of club-and-sword- wielding demonstrators with her police baton.
    As deputy commissioner of Police in Delhi’s West and North Districts,
BEDI posted constables in blue and white “beat boxes” where citizens could consult them daily. She redirected former bootleggers to honest livelihoods by arranging friendly loans and assistance. Women’s peace committees, set up at her initiative, promoted neighbourhood harmony. As community participation rose, crimes fell. Observing the link between drug addiction and chronic criminality, BEDI set up community-supported detoxification clinics, a model she later developed for wider application as deputy director of the Narcotics Control Bureau.
    As New Delhi’s Traffic Chief, her meticulous planning and ruthlessly impartial enforcement of the rules kept the capital’s motley caravanserai of vehicles moving at the 1982 Asian Games although she admits she made some enemies in the process. In 1993
BEDI became Inspector General of Prisons (Delhi) and took charge of Tihar, India’s largest prison complex. In this brutally overcrowded purgatory dwelled more than 8000 prisoners, 90 percent of whom were unconvicted and merely awaiting trail. BEDI rapidly transformed Tihar. Today its inmates follow a positive regimen of work, study, and colleges. In prison workshops, prisoners keep their skills tuned and earn wages to save in Tihar’s new bank. Through their panchayats (elected councils), inmates share responsibility for community discipline and for organizing games and entertainment. In yoga classes they learn meditation techniques to still anger and improve concentration. Complaints placed in the mobile petition box go directly to the top and are taken seriously. Tihar is a different world today. In it BEDI’s charges are being imbued with positive attitudes and practical skills for life beyond the walls.
    In all of
BEDI’s innovations there is a pattern; each one seeks to break down adversarial relations between the police and the community, and each one seeks to replace the hard hand of punishment with the healing hand of rehabilitation.
    The discipline, confidence, and competitive spirit of
BEDI’s youth remain with her at age forty-five. She is impatient and inclined to buck the system. “It is tough to go against the wave,” she says, “but at least you reach where nobody else can.”
    In electing
KIRAN BEDI to receive the 1994 RAMON MAGSAYSAY AWARD for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her building confidence in India’s police through dynamic leadership and effective innovations in crime control, drug rehabilitation, and humane prison reform.

Award Acceptance Speech
Response of
1994 RM Awardee for Government Service
31st August 1993, CCP, Manila

Mr President, Mr Magsaysay, trustees, ladies and gentlemen,

Twenty two years ago when I decided to join the elite Indian Police Service, I saw in it great potential for the “Power to Do”, the “Power to Get Things Done” and the “Power to Correct”. I do firmly believe that Police in any country can be the greatest protector of Human Rights and the Rule of Law for — as it could as well be the greatest violator of both.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award has done a couple of magical things in my case, as it does in others:

1. It has recognized the “Power to Prevent”.
    Crime prevention is usually given a lower priority and underestimated as an area of policing. What gets priority and headlines are detection and seizures, and not prevention of delinquency and breach of peace, which had all the potential of violent crime.
2.  The Power of Policing with People:
    “Policing is for people”, therefor people must be made partners in policing. Once that is done in a variety of ways, it provides transparency and accountability to the whole system. Resources which cannot alone come from police, could come from participative policing.
3.  The Power of the Team:
    Leaders in police or Government if they want results, need to form teams, and allow them initiatives, delegation, support, non interference and training with total emphasis on professional integrity. While personal example is crucial, sharing of achievements will lead to more results. This will lead to not only “Keeping Security” but also “Creating Security”.

The award has propelled me to consolidate and expand my work. For this I have registered a Trust, called India Vision, I am breathing life into it this moment. I will carry forward projects in the field of Prison Reform, Drug Abuse Prevention, Empowerment of Women, Mental Disability and Sports Promotion. I seek your greater support in these projects.

I accept the Ramon Magsaysay Award with total gratitude to the Foundation and the Philippines , on behalf of my Team comprising of Police-Prison-People and my Family from India.

Just before I was leaving for the ceremony, I got a call from my Prison Head Quarters, (my DIG, Mr Sarangi), that at this very time all my 9100 prisoners are having special celebrations for the occasion.

Thank you, 

(Dr Kiran Bedi)

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