She has had many middle names - Kiran ‘Crane’ Bedi, Kiran (‘Tihar’) Bedi; and now Kiran ( ‘TA’) Bedi (of Team Anna). Some people say the ‘TA’ refers to Kiran (‘travel allowance’) Bedi. That is rather uncharitable because, I believe, Ms Bedi is guilty of what lots of others do as a matter of routine - fudging expense accounts. Babus manipulate leave travel claims; bureaucrats, medical reps., and journalists, fudge tour bills.
A confession here may be in order. During my Times of India years (1980-90s) I have, on occasions, billed the office First-class rail fare and travelled in 3rd sleeper. I was not entitled to airfare those days. And I have claimed a reporter’s daily entitlement (Rs.750), even on travels in a media group at the expense of organisers. This was standard operating procedure with many media persons in my days. And accounts dept. passed our bills, with no questions asked. ‘Don’t-ask, don’t-tell’ was how we kept our affairs under the lid.
A former management consultant, David Craig, in his whistle-blower of a book – Rip-Off - speaks of his industry’s seven deadly scams, of which the first one pertains to the deal a business consultancy does with travel agents/airline to secure travel rebate on business tours that are paid for by clients. The consultancy invoices the clients for full travel/hotel costs. The resultant windfall goes to the bosses.
Ms Bedi, invited to a speaking engagement in Mumbai, billed her host ‘executive’ class airfare from Delhi. She, however, flew ‘economy’class, from Pune. Ms Bedi’s host – the Aviation Industry Employees Guild – paid Rs.31,578 by way of return fare from Delhi by Indian Airlines. As a gallentry award winner Ms Bedi is entitled to concessional fare in Indian Airlines.
A multitude of white-collar folks merrily fudge expense accounts , with no one thinking any less of them. But then Ms Bedi, as a person in public life, can’t afford violation of the 11th Commandment - ‘Thou shall not be found out’. A flag-waving anti-corruption activist , Ms Bedi gets invited to TV talk shows every other day as spokesperson for Team Anna. Wonder if TV channels pay talk-heads fee for appearances.
Getting caught fudging travel bills was bad enough. What is worse, Ms Bedi on TV sought to justify it, saying the savings she made went to a trust account - that of India Vision Foundation (IVF), of which Ms. Bedi is a founder. ‘Since when did saving become a crime ?’, said she, in an SMS exchange with The Hindu. Far from admitting her guilt , over-charging her host, she faulted them for lacking in grace – ‘I did a favour by going to them (for) free, not charging even speaker’s fee’. Her host – The Aviation Industry Employees Guild – had invited Ms Bedi to be chief guest for an International Women’s Day function in Mumbai, in March 2009. This was the event for which Ms Bedi said she didn’t charge a speaker’s fee. I didn’t realize Ms Bedi expects payment for public appearances to promote a cause.