Centre never gave orders for unconstitutional acts: Bedi

Centre never gave orders for unconstitutional acts: Bedi

Kiran Bedi
"I was impatient to see a clean and healthy village."
"I have never received any message from Government of India for any illegal or unconstitutional act."

India’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi completes two years as Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry on May 29. Ever since taking over as the administrator, she has had constant run-ins with the elected Congress government headed by Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy.

In this free-wheeling interview with ETB Sivapriyan of Deccan Herald, Bedi talks about her two-year experience in Puducherry, the controversial order linking cleanliness with free rice distribution and her equation with the CM. Excerpts:

It has been almost two years since you assumed office as Lt Governor of Puducherry. How would you sum up your experiences in this tiny Union territory?

Puducherry is the most beautiful part of India. One realises it only when one visits it. Just because it is far away from New Delhi, it got away in the past, even when it messed up in many ways. It has not had a sustained honest administration. Due to which it does not even have proper policies in place. Not even a vision document. But the good news is, it has nature gifted resources to deliver provided the systems are put in place and people are made partners in its growth and sustainability.

Puducherry has an abundance of tourism potential and spiritual wealth lying untapped still. It also has well-meaning officers at all levels. The process has just begun with pumping in of financial resources from the Government of India in many areas. We now should ensure these are honestly invested, managed without overruns. Puducherry must develop right revenue generating models and oversight systems.

On assuming office, you said you will hold the post of L-G only for two years. Are you going to stick to your decision or have you reconsidered it since the deadline is nearing?

Serving Puducherry has turned into a mission for me. I will like to serve it for some more time till I find the new officers’ team is well settled. We have a good team of civil service officers in leadership. They need care and support.

Will you give yourself one more year, next year, as well?

Yes, I do hope so. However, getting transferred is not in my hands.

Recently, you linked cleanliness of villages with free rice distribution scheme and there was an opinion that you were trying to penalise the common man for the failure of the administration. Do you think the issue could have been handled in a better way?

I was impatient to see a clean and healthy village. I withdrew the conditional order because I could not explain to the people my intention. Hence, I was misconstrued. I do not know Tamil. However, I have found other good means of getting villages clean. But I still need to be patient.

What are the other good means that you have found? What do you mean when you say you need to be patient?

By training commune commissioners to work closely with rural communities and to take the lead themselves. We also plan to spread awareness on the health benefits of good sanitation and ‘Shramdaan’ as Gandhiji taught us.

You have had running battles with the chief minister of Puducherry (Narayanaswamy) over several issues. What do you have to say about it?

I have been only chasing garbage, unclean ponds, open defecation clean ups, improving training skills for youth, trying to create a work culture of trust and internal communication, opening Raj Nivas to people, and more. Of course, I certainly respond and counter statements when I need to put the record straight. People have a right to know fully.

What about the CM? Does he come for meetings?

Yes, he does. As do members of the Cabinet.

Does not the war of words and lack of coordination between the L-G and CM affect administration?

Yes, it does. But then, one should give one’s best within limitations and know how to get the work done and, therefore, should work harder. My sustained Open House for people and weekend rounds are some of the evidences of this. These keep us ahead of the curve.

There have been so many incidents of war of words between you and the CM. Why do you think it happens?

I understand where he comes from. He is what he is. Perhaps, he needs to believe that everything we have done is for ‘his’ Puducherry, as he is the native of this place. I am temporary. He is permanent here. He is the biggest beneficiary.

Are you saying that except for the CM, everyone else is cooperating?

Yes, they do. They do appreciate that in certain matters, the buck stops at L-G secretariat. Hence, it is in their interest to stay in communication.

The CM says the BJP is behind you and you take instructions from the PM?

The prime minister is the prime minister of the country. Puducherry is a Union territory, too. But I have never received any message from Government of India for any illegal or unconstitutional act.

Is there any chance of rapprochement with the CM or inviting him for a cup of coffee to sort out the issues because everyone accepts that the war of words is affecting administration?

We did it. He (Narayanaswamy) played a big sport by accepting my request and people’s request to translate my speech to Tamil at the annual festival of Puducherry Kamban Kazhagam. I thanked him for it.

Despite the Madras High Court validating the nomination of three BJP leaders as MLAs, the Speaker refused to allow them inside the House. What is your opinion on this and do you think there should be a review on the powers of Speaker?

The matter is before the HC. The final order is awaited.

Do you think the post of LG is being politicised? Not just in Puducherry, but in general?

It is a fact of social life now. The key is what is delivered with what purpose.