Lok Sabha TV- Public Forum: Ban on Beacon
In a major decision recently, the Government has done away with the beacon lights for VIPs. From May 1st, 2017. The decision was taken in the cabinet meeting and is in sync with the Government’s view of abolishing the VIP culture of beacon lights and sirens. Though few steps ahead of this, some state governments have already banned the use of beacon lights including AAP government in Delhi and newly elected governments of UP and Punjab. But most of all, the Supreme Court in many occasions in last 7 years have actively directed the governments to check this practice from time to time.
Five category officials including the Prime Minister, President, Vice President, Chief Justice of India and the Lok Sabha Speaker will also not be allowed to use red beacons after the decision is implemented along with Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, State Cabinet Ministers, bureaucrats and judges. The blue beacons will be allowed only on emergency vehicles. In 2013, the Supreme Court termed the use of beacons by ministers and government officials as ridiculous and synonymous with power and said that only Constitutional authorities should be allowed to use it.
The Supreme Court of India first began the debate on VIP culture including the red and blue beacon lights of flashing and non-flashing variety back in 2010 and continued to direct the authorities regarding the use and misuse of beacon lights. Later, in 2013, the Court drew up a restricted list for the use of red beacons to those who hold a Constitutional office and blue lights for emergency and ambulance services. State governments were also asked to frame rules to implement Court order but the implementation however, remained incomplete.
Is it the start of a new healthy trend and its impact on VIP culture?
This was a reminiscence of colonial past. In India, the beacon became a symbol of VIP and public servants flashed it to set themselves aristocratically aside from the public they had to serve. It was the legacy of a mentality of those who served British Government and treated the natives as slaves.
Vehicles with beacon lights have no place in a democratic country. People often find these flashing lights as an example of power and VIP status rather than security aids. Even lower-level politicians and officials misuse the beacons to show off their importance, especially in smaller towns. So, this is a welcome step by Government in order to change the culture to reduce the gap between the ruler and those being ruled. Security should be unobtrusive.
What will be its advantages?
- Feeding the colonial mentality, abuse of beacons made the roads less convenient and more dangerous for the common citizen. There have been many cases of road accidents due to speed of these VIP cars. But now, every citizen will be on the same page
- In India, beacon-fitted vehicles were a cause of menace together with their occupants for either causing traffic jams or cutting through them as others had to wait and watch. There will be an end to this issue.
- Only those with serious threats actually need to be guarded. The rest of the VIPs are rewarded at considerable cost to the public exchequer and this patronage is extended to people with the worst criminal records as well.
Do such decisions strengthen principle of equality?
Rule 108 deals with use of red, white and blue lights on vehicles. Rule 108-1 (III) says the Centre and states can specify dignitaries who can use beacons on their (official) vehicles. It is a central rule and is being abolished from the rule book.
By removing the provision in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules,1989 that allowed the Union and state governments to permit designated functionaries to use beacons, the Government has batted for equality. The move will discomfort a minority of people but will surely delight the majority.
Whether it is Narendra Modi’s Pradhan Sewak or Nehru’s First Servant, the sentiment is still the same that every Indian is a VIP. Strong political will towards this step will surely bring a change.