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Indian activist Kiran Bedi on 'standing up' against corruption
Anti-corruption campaigner and India's first female police officer Kiran Bedi speaks to Richard Lindell about the fight to stamp out the country's debilitating corruption.

It's not so long ago that a hunger strike by Indian activist Anna Hazare brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the streets to demand an end to the debilitating corruption.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh promised action, but so far a law attacking corruption in government and the bureaucracy has not been passed, and the protestors are back.

Kiran Bedi is a senior member of the anti-corruption movement and was India's first female police officer.

She spoke with India correspondent Richard Lindell.
Transcript
RICHARD LINDELL, REPORTER: Kiran Bedi last year's protests attracted huge crowds across the country. Is there a risk that this time around people will be disheartened, will be disconnected from the issue of corruption and will feel nothing can really change?

KIRAN BEDI, ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTIVIST: No, I think people are angrier. They are looking for a change. And since last year the message has gone much more across the state. We've gone just too many meetings. The media, the radio, the print has been talking a lot about it. In fact, this message of the movement has gone down, it's continued to percolate.

Now, how many people come or how many not, time will come. But we are not going for numbers, we are not waiting for people to assemble. We, as a team and as a movement, are doing what we think needs to be done.

RICHARD LINDELL: What you say needs to be done is for the introduction of a strong ombudsman bill. In fact you campaigned very strangely for that over the last year or two. And yet there has been no ombudsman bill. Why has the movement failed in its primary objective?

KIRAN BEDI: This movement is in - the passing of the bill is in the hands of the same people in whose interest it is to retain corruption and protect themselves. So when they are themselves the culprits how would you expect them to legislate a bill which will axe their own toes and send them to jail? So that's the real challenge. Which is why our new movement, another movement is of let's go back a little and understand why they're not legislating and giving India an independent ombudsman. Because they themselves are the culprits.

So we've offered evidence against 14 cabinet ministers to the prime minister, which includes him too.

RICHARD LINDELL: So what is this evidence that you have against the prime minister, against the newly elected president?

KIRAN BEDI: It's financial irregularities, it's criminal acts. Some of them are very adversely commended by the judiciary . They've been adversely commended by the controller and our auditor general. There's evidence of nepotism against - written by their own bureaucrats.

If I they investigated much more will come. We have been able to cobble together what could be brought in, but the investigation will tell you. And you might as well be maybe wrong, we're just saying please inquire too into. Please investigate. So you're not declaring their guilty.

RICHARD LINDELL: You've been criticised for targeting the congress party. Has partisan politics or at least the perception of partisan politics weakened the anti- corruption moment?

KIRAN BEDI: We haven't criticise only the Congress. We are criticising the government in power, because only the government in power can finally give you the law. We are looking for the law. Whichever parties gives us, thank you very much. But the party in power which has the numbers to pilot the bill and pass the bill is the congress party at the centre.

So it's not the question of a party. It's question of party in power, at the centre. And at the centre the parliament, the congress, it's the UP which has the numbers, not the BGP.

RICHARD LINDELL: You said earlier that you're not going to measure the success of the campaign by the number of people that come onto the streets. How will you measure success? What needs to change for you to say that actually this movement has achieved something concrete, something real?

KIRAN BEDI: The measurability is that today corruption remains a headline; number one every time. You cannot put it under the carpet anymore, right. We may not be getting a solution. We may not be reaching a headway, but the fact is earlier corruption was being accepted as a way of life. Today, corruption is being talked about, is being accused, is being rubbished, it's being asked for a punishment. Courts are taking more cognisance. To me this is the measurability in the way this movement has put the issue of corruption back on the table saying, 'listen, this is not acceptable.'

Because it's hurt us just too long and we've been cowards. Get out of your cowardice, stand up and continue counted. Speak up. This is not acceptable because this has kept us poor and backwards. So people have to start to speak up.

So I think people have started to speak up across the lands of this country to me is the measurability, not just the numbers. Numbers is already there.

RICHARD LINDELL: I want to step back from the campaign for the moment and talk about you. You were India's first female police officer. I'm wondering how it came to be that corruption has become your full-time work now, your life's work. Is it because of what you saw in the police force or is it because of what you've seen in your life?

KIRAN BEDI: I think it just became too much, it is like getting drowned in corruption. We were swimming in corruption. I think today we almost drowned in corruption. And in the drowning of corruption you see a breakdown in infrastructure of this country. And it is way behind. And it's not that India did not have the money for this infrastructure, India lost its money to corruption for infrastructure and therefore all of us are losers.

RICHARD LINDELL: You've also paid quite a heavy price for your fight, certain jobs in the police force didn't come to you, you've had allegations of corruption levelled against you as well. The damage to your reputation and to your family and career, do you ever feel this is not worth it?

KIRAN BEDI: No it's still worth it because it does matter. If something is not true, should not hurt you. That's where you have to rise above. It did hurt for a while when they made false allegations or when somebody lies. But over a period you get healed and you rise above. And you keep your focus.

That is what happens in most of us. It hurt us for a while by then when the conscious told you what are you worried about? When what is being labelled is basically to bring you down, to take your eye off the ball and to fail you, you come back to say, 'if you play into their hands you will have lost focus and you lost the momentum of the movement.' So you come back, and you come back with a greater zeal and a greater commitment. I think on the contrary such false allegations re-energise you.
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