- The banning of red lights is symbolic, but there are other privileges that should end.
- The first step has to be an end to 'traffic avoidance' privilege, which everyone takes for granted.
- Let India strive to truly become an equal country, and let our leaders be slightly more equal at least.
Every Indian is a VIP, and the culture of beacons on VIP vehicles should have gone long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday, hours after the red beacon ban was announced by the government.
Naturally, the nation cheered the move, even though most people acknowledged the fact that it was largely a symbolic move. The red light by itself had mostly lost meaning in an increasingly self-aware and self-confident electorate.
As Modi himself stated in a tweet - "These symbols are out of touch with the spirit of new India,"
Indeed they are. But if we are really going to speak about the spirit of new India, there are quite a few things that are 'out of touch'. It has always been a bit of a historical oddity that in India, our leaders seem to have taken over from the British, rather than standing beside us.
No sooner at the foreign overlords left, their desi counterparts swarmed right back into the halls of privilege that the colonial masters had built for themselves. And to this day, in endless ways, India has continued that tradition, simply because those in power - be it elected or even from the corridors of babudom - enjoy their elevated status. And thus there are the cars with drivers, the bungalows and rest homes, the government quarters and servants and so on.
Of course, for those who have won an election, no matter how small, the need to be elevated from the rest of us peasants is instantly doubled. And as the elections get bigger, so it seems, does the need. It ends up with hundreds of 'VIPs and VVIPs' in India who appear to move around the country with a small battalion.
This force includes the armed guards, the police escort, the traffic managers, the rest of the neta's retinue, some doctors and at least some 20 cars wherever he or she happens to go. Indeed, one wonders how much better would this country be if its rulers spent more time with the people than doing their best to be as separated from the people as possible.
If every Indian is actually a 'VIP' and if we truly want to remove the many false airs that our netas have put on over the years, we must begin by dismantling this system of VVIP privilege.
The first step, naturally, has to be an end of the idea that an elected person cannot spend time in traffic. Why must everyone else wait while this exalted being is allowed to pass through as if they are semi-divine?
Should the Prime Minister wait in traffic? Of course not. Not only is the PM's time too valuable, but there are also security concerns. But this privilege should be restricted to a tiny number of posts.
Another tamasha that can go can be those armed guards. If no one has so much as sneezed in the direction of the neta in the past 30 years, perhaps he or she does not need six men holding sub-machine guns following them all the time.
In any case, what does it say about law and order of the state if its leaders refuse to believe they can walk the streets safely for five minutes?
While these two are the biggest, there are a host of others which can be stripped off until an elected official is forced to acknowledge the truth - they are merely representatives of the people, not avatars of Lord Vishnu.
But before all else, the traffic privileges must end. There is nothing more sickening that watching thousands of ordinary citizens, some perhaps in ambulances, standing around watching while a 'corridor' is cleared for a neta.
As Senior BJD MP Tathagat Satpathy pointed out - "When blocking of traffic stops, the system of pilot and trailing cars is discontinued, the real VIP culture will start crumbling. Till then, this a cosmic show,"
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:34 PM IST