Home / Politics / Policy /  No more red beacons on VIP vehicles from 1 May

New Delhi: Come 1 May and the ubiquitous red beacon will no longer be seen atop cars of dignitaries and top government officials. The Union cabinet on Wednesday decided to put an end to the practice of using such beacons in a decision that covers all government vehicles, including those ferrying the prime minister, chief ministers, central and state ministers and judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.

The government also decided to make amendments to the rule governing the use of blue beacons—these can only be used by vehicles such as ambulances, fire tenders and police cars in cases of emergency that will be notified.

ALSO READ: Every Indian is a VIP, says Narendra Modi on red beacon ban

The decision comes more than three years after the Supreme Court first raised the issue of red beacons and asked for restrictions on their use in December 2013.

At present, red beacons are installed on vehicles of dignitaries specified by the central and state governments. Now, neither can nominate officials to use them.

To bring about the change, the government will need to amend rule 108 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, which deals with beacons.

Nitin Gadkari, minister for road transport and highways, termed the move a historic and democratic decision. “This government is a government of common masses and thus we have decided to abolish the VIP culture of beacon lights and sirens," he said.

Congress says red beacon ban a step towards ending VIP culture

The red beacon or laal batti, allowed to only top public officials and politicians, has come to signify influence and privilege. The flashing red light (and the accompanying siren) is a sign of someone important approaching and a warning to make way. But what many see as a symbol of entitlement also serves as an aspiration for young men and women across the country.

The proposal to dump red beacons has been doing the rounds of the government for around eight months. A senior government official, on condition of anonymity, said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked Nitin Gadkari to hold consultations with all ministers and come up with a final call. Though there was a division of thought among the ministers, the final call was taken by the PM."

The cabinet decision comes at a time when questions are being raised about the arrogance of elected representatives, in the wake of Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad misbehaving with Air India officials after he was not given a business-class seat.

But some believe it will be premature to see the move as heralding a shift in mindset. “Unless you effect structural changes, like ease of access to resources and the manner in which politicians are treated, issues that are at the heart of the privilege culture in India, this decision doesn’t carry much weight," said sociologist Sanjay Srivastava of the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University.

Even before the centre’s decision, there have been several state governments that have sought to do away with red beacons. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was one of the first to announce that neither he nor his team would use cars with flashing lights. Both Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath issued similar orders after getting elected. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, too, travels without this marker of power.

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