New Delhi: The decision of Union Government to ban red beacons atop cars of all Ministers, politicians, judges and bureaucrats applies even to President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Lok Sabha Speaker.
The ban is effective from May 1. Initial reports said that the ban will exempt the country’s top dignitaries such as the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India and the Speaker. Later, Union Transport Minister Nithin Gadkari clarified that no one in the country will use red beacons except for ambulances and vehicles of Fire Service, Police, and Army which will be allowed to use blue flashing beacons to cut through traffic.
About six categories of beacons — primarily red, blue and yellow — are in use in India. But the red, or the coveted “lal batti”, has been drawing maximum attention as an elitist VIP symbol since the British rulers introduced it.
“We have decided to remove the clause from the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, that gave the Centre and States the power to decide who should be allowed to display red beacons. The Road Ministry will shortly notify the amended rules,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.
The Road Transport Ministry had earlier proposed limiting the privilege to five Constitutional authorities — the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The proposal was not approved. According to the Government, vehicles with beacon lights have no place in a democratic country.
People often saw these flashing lights as shining examples of power and VIP status, more than security aids. Even lower-level politicians and officials misuse the beacons to show off their importance, especially in smaller towns.
‘STOP MISUSE OF VEHICLES’
Reacting to the ban on red beacons, former MLC G. Madhusudan has said that the Government must take back the vehicles provided to the VIPS. Only senior officials of the rank of Deputy Commissioner and above senior Police Officers, Army and other Para-Military forces must be given vehicles. All other vehicles must be withdrawn.
“This will stop the VIPs from misusing official vehicles and the drivers for personal purposes. Many times we have seen these vehicles and drivers being used to drop children to schools and taking family members for shopping,” he said.
Madhusudan has suggested that instead of giving vehicles and drivers, allowances can be paid to the VIPS to reimburse their official fuel expenses. “VIPs can travel in their own cars and claim fuel expenses only for the official work,” he said. This will curb misuse of Government vehicles,” he opined.
The Centre’s order to ban beacon lights atop Government vehicles was an old one, said MLA Vasu. “It is an old order and the Government is just implementing it stringently now,” he said.
“Though the Supreme Court had passed a series of orders on the use of red beacons by VIPs, no one took them seriously. In Karnataka especially, the use of red beacon cars is rampant. The Centre’s move will herald a new beginning,” he said.