PM Modi declares, every Indian is a VIP: No more ‘laal battis’

PM Modi declares, every Indian is a VIP: No more ‘laal battis’

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PM Modi declares, every Indian is a VIP: No more ‘laal battis’

NEW DELHI: From May 1, no VIP, dignitary or official at Centre and states will be able to use any beacon – red or blue – on their vehicles.

There will be no exceptions even for the PM, President and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and only emergency service vehicles like ambulances, fire brigade and police cars will use blue beacons.

Modi tweeted the decision, noting “Every Indian is special. Every Indian is a VIP. It should have gone long ago. Glad that today a strong beginning has been made.” The political message was clear enough that his government has acted where previous ones did not and that the decision was a blow to India’s notorious “VIP culture.”

PM Narendra Modi informed the Cabinet of the decision on Wednesday after PMO held a detailed meeting last week on options including doing way with the beacon culture submitted by road transport minister Nitin Gadkari after consultation with three other senior Cabinet ministers. Media on April 12 had first reported how doing away with the red beacon completely was on the PMO’s agenda.

Announcing the decision, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the road transport ministry will scrap the provision in the central motor vehicle rules, which empowers central and state governments to notify “vehicles carrying high dignitaries” to use red beacons. “This will mean Centre or states cannot nominate anyone to use red beacon from May 1,” Jaitley said adding this will end any such discretion or nomination by Centre or state.

Gadkari termed it as a historic decision saying common men feel bad when their ways are blocked for passage of VIP vehicles with red beacons. “We will notify the new norms after inviting suggestions and objections. But I appeal to everyone to remove these beacons on their own,” Gadkari told media.

The decision comes in the wake of critical observations of the Supreme Court on unfettered use of red beacons and the inconvenience caused to the public. The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi was the first to withdraw the use of red beacons by ministers. More recently, the Amarinder Singh government in Punjab has done away with red beacons, followed by the Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath, which banned hooters on ministerial vehicles.

Soon after the decision was announced, ministers began removing their red beacons with Gadkari, consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan, social justice minister Thawaarchand Gehlot and minister for small and medium enterprises Giriraj Singh leading the way. Information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu was an exception as he had never used a beacon.

The order means none including President, Vice-President, PM, Chief Justice of India, Union ministers, chief ministers, state cabinet ministers and judges of the high court and Supreme Court can use red beacons.

Another provision which empowers states to “determine and notify” which vehicles can use blue lights with flasher has also been done away with. Jaitley said the amendment of this provision will specify vehicles that emergency services will use red lights with flasher.

Sources in the transport ministry said the VIP culture of using beacons had been in practice much before the Motor Vehicles law was enacted in 1989.

 Gadkari said since only a couple of rules will be changed the decision will be implemented soon. Sources in the transport ministry said states will have to follow changes in the rules since till now Centre had delegated powers to states.
The process of pruning the VIPs entitled for fitting beacons atop their vehicles had started following stinging observations of Supreme Court in September 2013. It has said, “The widespread use of red lights on vehicles in the country is reflective of the mentality of those who served British Government and treated the natives as slaves.” In December that year the apex court had asked government to restrict the number of such VIPs only to those holding constitutional posts.