Government Moves To End “Lal Batti Culture”
No More Red Beacon Lights
In what has been lauded as a progressive and pertinent move, the Union Cabinet decided to ban the use of red beacons atop cars and vehicles of all VIPs. This includes the vehicles belonging to politicians, bureaucrats, and government officials. The ban is likely to be imposed from 1 May 2017. The government has come up with a no exception rule. This means that vehicles of the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, State Ministers, Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, and senior bureaucrats shall all be included in the ban. Some news reports, however, suggest that despite this announcement, the President, Vice President, and Chief Justice of India may still be allowed to use the red beacons atop their cars. The announcement was made by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister, Nitin Gadkari who said, “In a historic decision, the Cabinet has decided that beacon lights will be removed from all vehicles, barring emergency services vehicles, from 1 May ”.
Ending The ‘Lal Batti’ Culture
The decision to do away with the red beacon, a symbol of VIP status, may have much to do with the government’s aim to curb the privileges that senior government officials and ministers often claim. The very sight of red beacons, diversions, and long motorcades are enough to cause misery to the common man who remains stuck in traffic for the “VIP” officials to pass by. This, we hope, shall no longer be the case. There shall be reasonable security restrictions, however, when the President’s motorcade passes by.
Misuse of VIP status and privileges has become an increasing menace to the common folk. From holding up flights for hours to causing traffic disruption, the elitist politicians and bureaucrats have shifted the focus away from the common man. It is this sentiment that PM Modi echoed in his tweet with the announcement of the ban “Every Indian is special, every Indian is a VIP“.
A few years ago, in 2013, a resident of Uttar Pradesh had filed a PIL regarding the misuse of red beacons. At the time, the Supreme Court had said that the practice has “perhaps no parallel in the world democracies” and had added that it was “a menace to society” and was often used as a fashion symbol.
Last week the Indian PM and his convoy moved through regular traffic in Delhi as he headed out to receive Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. This was perhaps done to set an example which other ministers and officials could follow.
Ban Had Been In The Works
Support for a ban on red beacons and special traffic privileges have been building up for a while now. A couple of years ago, in 2015, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did away with the beacons for him and his cabinet of ministers. The recently elected chief ministers of Punjab (Captain Amrinder Singh) and Uttar Pradesh (Yogi Adityanath) have also initiated a move to ban beacons for officials in their respective states.
The Congress party seemed to welcome the move but did not pass an opportunity to take a dig at BJP. The PM is late in catching up with Congress’ ideas, said the party, in reference to the ban following Punjab’s move.
There are about 5-6 varieties of beacons currently in use on official cars and vehicles. Starting May this year, only emergency services such as the police vehicles, firefighting trucks, and ambulances will be allowed to sport the blue beacon.