Ban on Beacon – Lal Batti | LSTV

Recently, the NDA Government has done away with the beacon lights – Lal Batti for VIPs (from May 1st,2017). The Cabinet decision is in sync with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view of abolishing the VIP culture of red beacon lights and sirens. Supreme Court in many occasions in the last 7 years has actively directed several governments to check this unnecessary practice.

Lal Batti | What does the order say?

Five categories of officials including the President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice of India, the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Prime Minister will also not be allowed to use red beacons after the decision is implemented along with other Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and their respective Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and judges of the High Court and other subordinate courts. However, the blue beacons will be allowed to operated albeit on emergency vehicles.

Lal Batti | Background

  • In 2013, the Hon’ble Supreme Court termed the use of beacons by government officials and ministers as ridiculous and labelled it as synonymous of power while clarifying that only Constitutional authorities should be allowed to use it.
  • The first debate on the flashing and non-flashing variety of red and blue beacon lights was started by the Supreme Court in 2010. It continued to direct the concerned authorities regarding the use and misuse of beacon lights by the constitutional and non-constitutional authorities, respectively.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court prepared a restricted list for the use of red beacons for those who hold a Constitutional Similarly, blue lights were allowed for emergency and ambulance services. Henceforth, the State governments were asked to frame guidelines to implement the court order. But the implementation as we know, remained incomplete and merely on the paper.

Lal Batti | Impact on VIP Culture

The usage of red beacon (both flashing and non-flashing variety) was a baggage of colonial past. In India, the beacon turned into a symbol of VIP racism and public servants used it to signal their aristocratic status in the society to which they serve. It was the legacy of a feudal mentality of those serving the colonial Government who treated the native people as slaves.

In modern democratic era, vehicles with beacon lights have turned irrelevant, rather offensive to the society. We have often seen that even junior politicians and officials misuse the beacons to show off their political strength, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. Therefore, this recent decision could be regarded as a welcome step by the Government in order to terminate the VIP culture by reducing the gap between the ruler and the subjects.

Lal Batti Ban | Advantages

  • In continuance of the feudal mentality, the abuse of beacons made ourroads less convenient and more dangerous for the common people. There have been multiple cases of road mishaps due to the speed of these VIP cars. But now, every person will be on the same page, or every person will be a VIP (as per the Prime Minister) J
  • In India, one of the biggest cause of traffic jams were these beacon-fitted vehicles where the occupants of these vehicles forced the common people on road to wait for them while they pass the road. Fortunately, this matter will come to an end.
  • As the real people who need protection from beacon lights are those who need emergency services or perform emergency services like fire brigade, ambulance and police. The rest of the VIP racism costs direct and indirect costs to the public exchequer and it is often seen that this patronage is extended to many politicians with criminal background.

Lal Batti Ban |Principle of equality

Rule 108 of Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 deals with use of red, white and blue lights on vehicles. Rule 108-1 (III) says that the Centre and the states can specify dignitaries who can use such beacons on their (official) vehicles. It is a central rule that is being abolished from the rule book by this recent cabinet decision.

By removing this provision, the Government has moved forward towards equality. It will discomfort a minority of people with feudal leverages but it will surely delight the majority of people who will find a sense of relief out of the abolishment of this VIP racism.

Lal Batti | Conclusion

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been attributing himself as the ‘Pradhan Sevak’ of India. This move portrays the sentiment that every Indian is a VIP. The strong political shown by the government through this step will surely bring a change in our society and hopefully in our feudal mindset of colonial era.

To see the full debate on LSTV Click Below :

 

Raj Malhotra IAS Study Group.