good motoring
Fifty shades of beacons
After the Supreme Court banned the use of red, blue and amber beacons, the Punjab Government has decided to circumvent the ban with the use of green and white beacons
H. Kishie Singh

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." This is a famous saying by Abraham Lincoln. And how will a man prove to the world that he has power. If he is a government official, he has to have a red beacon. If not red, a blue will do, or even amber. This practice of beacons on vehicles assumed epidemic proportions and the Supreme Court had to step in. It told the government to limit the use of red beacons, ban hooters and increase the amount of fine in case of unauthorised use.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cycles to work, like any ordinary citizen
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cycles to work, like any ordinary citizen

A small section of people, who consider themselves special as against ordinary citizens, cannot cause inconvenience to the public observed the Apex Court. For this purpose a Special Bench was constituted to change the notification to limit the use of red beacons by dignitaries.

They also observed that the people using red beacons were a menace to society. It was decided that no IAS, IPS, MP, MLA and a few others would be allowed to use red beacons.

The MLAs in Himachal Pradesh say they are facing an identity crisis after the removal of red beacons from their vehicles. Punjab Government was not concerned. Since the court order covered only red, blue and amber beacons and hooters, Punjab officials would use green and white beacons.

Anybody's guess is good what colour Kirron Kher would be allowed. She has applied for a red beacon, same as the Governor. The VIPs who have been affected by this ruling are ruing the fact that they would be now invisible on the road. "Dilution of status", they claim. Even more upset than the VIPs are their spouses and children.

In the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cycles to work, like any ordinary citizen. There is just one policeman stationed at the entrance to his office. Compare this scenario with that of a chief minister of a state on the move in India. He has a dozen security vehicles plus policemen stationed on sidewalks en route.

In all democratic countries the heads of state do not indulge in this tamasha the way the CMs do in India.

Around the world, red and blue flashing lights are reserved for the police, the fire and the ambulance services. These three are termed essential and emergency services. A flashing amber light is also used though not by emergency services. A flashing amber light on a vehicle in Canada warns of a snow blower at work. The difference here is that we are comparing highly developed and progressive countries with India. These are disciplined and obey the rule of law. We don't.

In India one of the reasons for this elitism is the caste system. The red beacon is upper class, lower on the social strata is blue and still lower, amber.

The Apex Court has pointed out that the red beacon as a symbol of authority is contrary to the Constitution, the right to equality. The Raj has also left a hangover. Pomp and pageantry was of the utmost importance. It was meant to intimidate the natives, the ruled by the rulers. So it is today.

There is a very simple solution to this. Ban all car beacons except for the police, the fire and the ambulance services.

Happy Motoring!