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Kiran Bedi - First Woman Officer in IPS

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If you have been associated with India in the 1980s and 1990s, there is a good chance you have heard of super cop Kiran Bedi.

Born on June 9, 1949, Kiran Bedi became the first woman officer in the IPS (Indian Police Service) in 1972. She was born in Amritsar, Punjab to parents Prakash Peshawaria and Prem Peshawaria. She is the second of four daughters. Her three sisters are; Shashi, an artist settled in Canada, Reeta, a clinical psychologist and writer, and Anu, a lawyer. She attended the Sacred Heart Convent School, Amritsar, where she joined the NCC (National Cadet Corps). She took up tennis and won the Junior National Lawn Tennis Championship in 1966, the Asian Lawn Tennis Championship in 1972, and the All-India Interstate Women's Lawn Tennis Championship in 1976. In addition, she also won the All-Asian Tennis Championship, and won the Asian Ladies Title at the age of 22.

On the personal front, in 1972, Kiran Bedi married Brij Bedi, a textile machine manufacturer whom she met at the Amritsar tennis courts. In 1975, they had daughter Saina, who is now also involved in community service. In one of her lectures to a corporate meeting, Kiran Bedi expressed her belief that everyone in society has an important role to play which will enable others to fulfill their duties (or important tasks), quoting the example of her uneducated housemaid whose help in Bedi's daily household work had helped Bedi to complete an important task of writing a book.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English (Hons.) from the Government College for Women, Amritsar in 1968. She then earned a Master’s degree in Political Science from Punjab University, graduating at the top of her class in 1970. She later obtained a Bachelors degree in Law in 1988 from University of Delhi. In 1993, she obtained a Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the Department of Social Sciences, IIT – Delhi, where the topic of her thesis was 'Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence’.

She began her career as a Lecturer in Political Science at Khalsa College for Women, Amritsar. In 1972, she joined the IPS and served on a number of tough assignments ranging from New Delhi traffic postings, Deputy Inspector General of Police in Mizoram, Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of Chandigarh, Director General of Narcotics Control Bureau, to a United Nations delegation, where she became the Civilian Police Advisor in United Nations peacekeeping operations. For her work in the UN, she was awarded a UN medal. She is popularly referred to as Crane Bedi for towing the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's car for a parking violation, during the PM's tour of United States at the time.

Kiran Bedi influenced several decisions of the Indian Police Service, particularly in the areas of Narcotics Control, Traffic management, and VIP security. During her stint as the Inspector General of Prisons, in Tihar Jail (1993–1995), she instituted a number of reforms in the management of the prison, and initiated a number of measures such as detoxification programs, Art of Living Foundation Prison Courses, yoga, vipassana meditation, and literacy programs. For this she won the 1994 Ramon Magsaysay Award, and the 'Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship', to write about her work at Tihar Jail.

She was last appointed as Director General of India's Bureau of Police Research and Development. In December 2007, she voluntarily retired from the police force to undertake new challenges in life.

In May 2005, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Law in recognition of her “humanitarian approach to prison reforms and policing”.

Kiran Bedi has also been involved in social causes for a long time. She along with 17 other police officers set up the Navjyoti India Foundation (NIF) in 1987. It started with a de-addiction and rehabilitation initiative for drug addicts. Now the organization has expanded to other social issue like illiteracy and women empowerment. In 1994, Bedi setup India Vision Foundation which works in the field of police reforms, prison reforms, women empowerment and rural and community development. Her efforts have won national and international recognition, and her organizations were awarded the "Serge Soitiroff Memorial Award" for drug abuse prevention by the United Nations.

More recently, Kiran Bedi has been prominently involved with the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement along with Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. IAC has been actively protesting against corruption and is urging the government of India to enact a strong Lokpal Bill.

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Kiran Bedi - First Woman Officer in IPS

Guru Rabindranath Tagore

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Rabindranath Tagore is one of the most famous sons on Bengal, and India. Born on May 7, 1861, he was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. He is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music by introducing new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language. Rabindra Sangeet can be considered a product of the changes he brought about.

Growing up in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Tagore started writing poetry at a very early age. At age 16, he released his first collection of poems under the pseudonym Bhanusiṃha (‘Sun Lion’). Soon he started writing short stories and dramas, this time using his real name. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced), and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are amongst his most popular works. But his real claim to fame across all of India and internationally was that two of his compositions were chosen by two nations as their National anthems: Jana Gana Mana became India’s National anthem and and Amar Shonar Bangla was adopted by Bangladesh. The composer of Sri Lanka's national anthem, Sri Lanka Matha was a student of Tagore, and the song is inspired by Tagore's style.

The youngest of thirteen surviving children, Tagore was born in Calcutta to parents Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. The Tagore family patriarchs were the Brahmo founders of the Adi Dharm faith. Debendranath had formulated the Brahmoist philosophies espoused by his friend Ram Mohan Roy, and became focal in Brahmo society after Roy's death.

Rabindranath was raised mostly by servants; his mother had died in his early childhood and his father travelled widely. His home hosted the publication of literary magazines; theatre and recitals of both Bengali and Western classical music featured there regularly. Tagore's oldest brother Dwijendranath was a respected philosopher and poet. Another brother, Satyendranath, was the first Indian appointed to the elite and formerly all-European Indian Civil Service. Yet another brother, Jyotirindranath, was a musician, composer, and playwright. His sister Swarnakumari became a novelist. Jyotirindranath's wife Kadambari, slightly older than Tagore, was a dear friend and powerful influence.

Tagore was never fond of formal education. However, he enrolled at a public school in Brighton, East Sussex, England in 1878 honoring his father’s wish of seeing him become a barrister (lawyer). Eventually, in 1880 he returned to Bengal without a degree. In 1883 he married Bhabatarini Devi, later renamed as Mrinalini Devi. They had five children together before Mrinalini Devi’s death in 1902.

In 1901 Tagore moved to Shantiniketan and founded an ashram with an experimental school, groves of trees, gardens, and a library. He published Naivedya (1901) and Kheya (1906) during that time and translated poems into free verse. In November 1913, Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature for a small body of translated material from his 1912 creation - Gitanjali (Song Offerings). In 1915, the British Crown granted Tagore knighthood. He renounced it after the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

In 1921, Tagore and agricultural economist Leonard Elmhirst set up the "Institute for Rural Reconstruction", later renamed Shriniketan or "Abode of Welfare. He sought aid from donors, officials, and scholars worldwide to free villages from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance by providing knowledge. In the early 1930s he targeted the social issue of untouchability. He lectured against this practice and campaigned successfully to open the Guruvayoor Temple to Dalits (untouchables).

Tagore’s literary work continued abundantly during the last decade of his life. Some of the notable prose-poem works include Punashcha (1932), Shes Saptak (1935), Patraput (1936). Experimentation continued in his prose-songs and dance-dramas:  Shyama (1939), and Chandalika (1938); and in his novels: Dui Bon (1933), Malancha (1934), and Char Adhyay (1934).

Rabindranath Tagore died on August 7, 1941.

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Guru Rabindranath Tagore

Acharya Vinoba Bhave - Father of the Bhoodan Movement

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If a man achieves victory over this body, who in the world can exercise power over him? He who rules himself rules over the whole world – Vinoba Bhave

The father of the Bhoodan (Land Gift) Movement, a freedom fighter and spiritual leader, Vinoba Bhave was born at Gagode in Kolaba district, Maharashtra on September 11, 1895. Named Vinayak Narahari Bhave at birth, he was an ardent advocate of nonviolence and human rights and was conferred with the title of ‘Acharya’ (Revered Teacher).

Born in a pious Chitpavan Brahmin family, Vinoba was highly inspired after reading the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharat, and Ramayan at a very early age. His father, Naraharishambhurao Bhave was a devout Hindu and his mother, Rukmini Devi who died in 1918, was a great influence on him. In his memoir, Bhave states that, "There is nothing to equal the part my mother played in shaping my mind". Specifically, her devotion and spirituality molded his personality. His two brothers, Balkoba Bhave and Shivaji Bhave, remained bachelors devoted to social work.

At a very young age Vinoba was deeply interested in Mathematics. In 1916, on his way to Mumbai to appear for the intermediate examination, Vinoba Bhave put his school and college certificates into a fire. It is believed that Vinoba took the decision after reading a newspaper article by Mahatma Gandhi. After a series of exchange of letters between Gandhi and Bhave, on 7 June, 1916 Vinoba went to meet Gandhi. Five years later, on 8 April, 1921, Vinoba went to Wardha to take charge of a Gandhi-ashram there. During his stay at Wardha, Bhave also brought out a monthly in Marathi, named, `Maharashtra Dharma'. The monthly consisted of his essays on the Upanishads. Over the years, the bond between Vinoba and Gandhi grew stronger and his involvement in constructive programs for the society kept on increasing.

In 1932, while participating in the Indian Independence movement activities, he was sent to jail for six months in Dhulia. There, he taught the fellow prisoners about the different subjects of 'Bhagwad Gita', in Marathi. All the lectures given by him on Gita in Dhulia jail were collected and later published as a book.

Until 1940, Vinoba Bhave was known only to the people around him. Mahatma Gandhi, on 5 October, 1940, introduced Bhave to the nation by issuing a statement. He was also chosen as the first Individual Satyagrahi (an Individual standing up for Truth instead of a collective action) by Gandhi himself.

Vinoba's religious outlook was very broad and it synthesized the truths of many religions. This can be seen in one of his hymns "Om Tat" which contains symbols of many religions. Vinoba observed the life of the average Indian living in a village and tried to find solutions for the problems he faced with a firm spiritual foundation. This formed the core of his Sarvodaya (Awakening of all potentials) Movement.

He started the Bhoodan Movement or Land Gift Movement as a voluntary land reform movement in 1951 at Pochampally village in Telangana. He was inspired to start this after talking to 40 poor 40 Harijan families. It’s mission was to persuade wealthy landowners to voluntarily give a percentage of their land to lower castes. Vinoba Bhave walked across India on foot, to persuade landowners to give up a piece of their land. He was followed by crowds nearly everywhere he went. He asked rich landlords to consider him as one of their sons and give him a one seventh of their land which he then distributed to landless poor. Non-violence and compassion being a hallmark of his philosophy, he also campaigned against the slaughtering of cows.

As an experiment in voluntary social justice, Bhoodan attracted admiration throughout the world. There is little question that it created a social atmosphere in India that presaged land reform legislation activity throughout the country. It also had a tangible effect on the lives of many people: over 5 million acres (20,000 km) were donated.

In November 1982, Vinoba Bhave fell seriously ill and decided to end his life by refusing to accept any food and medicine during his last days. He died on 15 November, 1982.

Jai jagat!—Victory to the world! – Vinoba Bhave

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Acharya Vinoba Bhave - Father of the Bhoodan Movement

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