Kiran Bedi’s recent “Ticket-gate” has raised an important question — how much liberty can one take in the name of greater good?
Who is Kiran Bedi?
Bedi is the first woman IPS officer in India, having received many awards for her exemplary work, including the President’s gallantry medal and Ramon Magsaysay Award. She has authored five books, is the founder of two NGOs, a proponent of the Jan Lokpal Bill and a key member of Anna Hazare’s team.
What is this “Ticket-Gate”?
Over the past few years, Bedi, as a social activist, was invited to speak at places across the country by some NGOs. She was supposed to book the tickets on her own and then send across the invoices for reimbursement to the NGOs concerned.
What is the twist in the tale?
If the newspaper reports and her tweets are to be understood correctly, this is what has happened
- She was entitled for business class travel from event organisers and corporates when she was invited for speaking.
- She travelled economy class, with 75% discount (courtesy her gallantry medal), and raised invoices for the complete business class bill amount.
- The differential amount was set aside for her NGO India Vision Foundation.
What are the questions being raised?
All of us respect Kiran Bedi for the great work she has done in our country. However, this incident has raised an important question — How far can we go in the name of greater good? Will it be fair to charge one NGO a higher amount, to save it for another NGO? Are we playing Robin Hood? Has Kiran Bedi done any wrong by claiming this excess amount?
There could be an endless debate over these. However, it would be interesting to note that the trustees of her NGO have instructed the travel agent to return the balance amount forthwith.
Does this say anything? Did the Trustees wanted to retain their squeaky clean image and take a corrective action? Or did they think that what was done was morally wrong, in spite of the fact that it was for the good?
Now what makes the tale all the more interesting in the fact that Anil Bal, the proprietor of the agency Flywell Travel, which manages Kiran Bedi’s travel itinerary, ended his business with India Vision Foundation on Tuesday, saying the controversy over the inflated invoices raised by her had “unnecessarily tarnished my reputation”. He described the Trustees’ decision asking his company to refund the inflated amount to Bedi’s host organisations as “bizarre”.
So, we would like to know who claimed the money — the travel agent or the NGO?
What are the after effects?
Arvind Kejriwal, another key Team Anna member and a strong proponent of the Jan Lokpal Bill, defended Bedi over this controversy. ”If someone paid the ticket examiner in Railway because he needed a ticket, so that person cannot question Suresh Kalmadi? Is this the message being given out?” a statement from Kejriwal said.
I am not sure what Kejriwal wants to say in this line. In spite of reading this sentence at least 5 times, the interpretation is still clueless.
“If Kiran Bedi has committed a crime, hang her. Send her to jail but talk about Lokpal Bill. Whatever mistake she has done, investigate and punish her but we cannot decide it in a press conference whether the allegations are true or false,” the statement from Kejriwal further said.
I have a few questions of my own on this comment of Mr Kejriwal.
Has anyone stopped the dialogue on Jan Lokpal Bill in the midst of all this commotion? If yes, we would like to have the names. If not, why is Kejriwal bringing up the old issues?
If we can’t decide in a press conference whether the allegations are true or false, why do our proponents indulge in the same “being judgmental” policy on national television?
What is the takeaway from this?
The Jan Lokpal Bill and its ideas will benefit Indiain the long run. (Catch my views at: The Jan Lokpal Bills). However, as the movement gains increasing social credence, it would be important for the proponents to walk the talk.
The Indian public is already disillusioned by such greater good acts (exactly whose greater good will be an interesting question here) and such instances will only add to the headwind against the anti-corruption movement.