x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UAE Indians urged to back corruption fight

Dr Kiran Bedi, a member of Team Anna and the country's first female police officer, hits out over effectiveness of under-fire premier.

Dr Kiran Bedi, Indian social activist and retired Indian Police Service officer, after speaking about Indian corruption to Dubai expatriates.
Dr Kiran Bedi, Indian social activist and retired Indian Police Service officer, after speaking about Indian corruption to Dubai expatriates.

DUBAI // India does not need a "nice" prime minister, just an effective one, the country's first female police officer said yesterday.

Dr Kiran Bedi, an anti-corruption crusader, made clear her stance on the calls for the resignation of India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, at a fund-raising drive for her charity in Dubai.

"There is a difference between being nice and effective," she said. "We need a nicely effective prime minister who will root out corruption and eliminate poverty."

Mr Singh was accused of being involved in a corruption scandal on Saturday, along with the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and 13 other members of the cabinet.

The activist group Team Anna, led by Gandhian Anna Hazare and including Dr Bedi, claims the premier was involved in a coal scam during his tenure from November 2006 to May 2009.

Dr Bedi also addressed rumours of a divide within Team Anna over the latest allegations, saying her struggle against corruption would continue, despite differences between the group's members.

"There are differences among us, but it is only related to approach. Otherwise we are united against corruption," she said. "It is good to have a diverse opinion, but the differences are not real."

Dr Bedi said that India was not a poor country, but its money was going elsewhere.

"We are in for real trouble," she added. "The country has lost out on so much due to corruption. We cannot afford to have this kind of situation."

Dr Bedi urged Indians living abroad, referred to as non-resident Indians (NRIs), to play an active role in the development of the country and fight against corruption.

"NRIs form a powerful force. They have to come together and work for the country and for its development," she said.

Dr Bedi said anyone was welcome to join the cause, including models such as Poonam Pandey or film stars such as Shah Rukh Khan.

"We welcome everyone in our movement. The fight against corruption should go on," she added.

Dr Bedi, the winner of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, insisted that as a police officer, her main focus was the prevention of crime and rehabilitation.

"When I was walking in the slum with a uniform on, I saw thousands of children had no school," she said. "They were garbage pickers and beggars. They were becoming criminal. I tried to rehabilitate them and give a new life."

Her Navjyoti India Foundation aims to educate impoverished children and empower women living in slums and rural areas.

"Millions of children are born in India every year and they need schools, colleges and universities," Dr Bedi said. "Millions of jobs are needed for people. Our foundation is playing an important role in providing vocational training to students.

"The manner in which we are doing this is full of values. We are putting emphasis on honesty, simplicity, cleanliness and gratitude. A child who grows up with gratitude has great values."

Apart from her efforts in social activism and philanthropy, Dr Bedi also works as a radio and television host, and writes regular columns in India's print media. Two biographies and a documentary about her life (2008's Yes, Madam Sir by Megan Doneman) have been produced.

Shankar Chellaram, a manager at Rosy Blue Company in Dubai, is one of several NRIs to have pledged his support for her charity.

He praised Dr Bedi's efforts, saying: "She is a dynamic person. She is doing a great job for society, especially for the poor and underprivileged."

Dr Bedi is scheduled to attend a fund-raising dinner at the Crowne Plaza on Sheikh Zayed Road this evening.

frahman@thenational.ae