Modi government’s move on red beacons is definitely a step in the right direction
A relic of post-British independent India and considered feudalistic, prime minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet have decided to give up the flashing red beacon and siren on their cars. In one fell swoop, the PM has sent out a message that all indians are equal, trappings of power having been abolished in one of the biggest blows to a culture of entitlements and privileges that was all pervasive in india.
For long, cars with red beacon and blaring sirens symbolised authority. Removing red lights on all the dignitaries, including president, vice president, prime minister and chief justice is a welcome beginning. To ensure that there were no discretionary exemptions to this rule, the entire provision in Central Motor Vehicle Rules of 1989 on red beacons is set to go. This makes the flatlining of VIPs imminent as they become plebians overnight.
One has to give the devil its due. While feeble attempts were made in the past, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made a firm move on this count. But then, he got sucked into this VIP culture within two years of assuming high office in New Delhi. Newly elected chief minister of Punjab Amrinder Singh was decisive on day one. His Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath’s move to put an end to the culture of supremacy has stirred the conscience of elitist and egoistic politicos. Limiting the beacon usage only to emergency services and security establishment would go well in the long run to transform the face of the notorious bureaucracy that holds the sway even in kasbas and tehshils. Let’s not also forget that thousands of self proclaimed VIPS had taken upon themselves to use the red beacons even if they were not entitled to it. This horrendous culture was anti-people and extended to state-run enterprises, autonomous bodies and big NGOs with government and international support.
This is not enough to bring the ruling class closer to the people. Roads minister Nitin Gadkari’s idea of housing all the government offices and residences of central government officials in flats must be considered seriously. This will not only reduce the maintenance costs but will also end the yawning social gap between people and their rulers. Unlike in India, prime ministers and presidents in several countries live more like ordinary citizens notwithstanding the high offices they hold. Bringing in an open working style to the highest echelons of the power pyramid must be attempted here as well.
Another change that can be attempted is to scale down the posse of security personnel providing cover to leaders and self-styled politicians who do not deserve this privilege. According to an estimate, over 47,000 police officials and gun-trotting black cat commandos and SPG personnel provide cover round the clock to over 14,842 VIPs at the centre and states. Moving around with security bandobast has become a status symbol that needs to be immediately discouraged. There’s no reason why this ever-expanding number of special people cannot be curtailed to a few hundred as in other countries. Sheikh Mohommed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, drives his own car, has no security cover and can often be seen walking or driving in the emirate.
As shortage of about one million policemen and officials continues to stare in the face of policing the citizens, scaling down the security apparatus of our netas must be prioritised right away. Our netas may have to learn the basic behavioural traits if they were to sustain themselves in public life. Throwing their weight around, behaving in an obnoxious manner, like the Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad with an Air India official, should not be condoned. Rather, an example must be made of them. Maintaining even basic etiquette, like not jumping lines, joining queues at airports and railway stations, will bring leaders nearer to the people. In this context, Modi government’s move on red beacons is definitely a step in the right direction.