India The Lal Batti Goes!
In a bid to end VIP culture in India, the Modi government has prohibited the use of red beacon lights. It is a good move but it does not say much for the other atrocities that Narendra Modi and his party are wreaking against the minorities – or even agai
A good tradition set by the Indian government.
In a bid to eradicate the VIP culture from India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took an unusual step and banished the use of red beacons atop VIP vehicles. The order was implemented on International Labour Day 2017 when the Finance Minister informed the Indian House of Parliament of the decision of the Prime Minister.
It is a bold step taken by a government, which is bent on taking India to unprecedented heights. The VIP culture has plagued the subcontinent ever since the British departed, giving freedom to Pakistan and India. Government ministers and members of the ruling class immediately started the vulgar display of their authority and position by mounting red beacons on top of their vehicles so that ordinary citizens and public transport could yield way to the VIPs. According to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, a new law was promulgated to authorize VIPs using red beacons. Rule 108 of the Indian Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989 deals with use of red, white and blue lights on vehicles. Rule 108-1 (III) says the centre and states can specify dignitaries who can use beacons on their vehicles.
Modi informed his cabinet that VIPs will not be allowed to flaunt red beacons atop their vehicles from May 1. Although the opposition party, the Indian Congress, termed this as mere "symbolic politics," the unusual decision has been hailed by the Indian public. In pursuance to the decision, several ministers and chief ministers of states removed the red beacons from their vehicles and tweeted the action along with pictures of their vehicles sans the red beacons.
As an exception, vehicles involved in emergency and relief and rescue services, ambulances and fire services will, however, be allowed to use blue beacons. Henceforth no dignitary at the centre or in the states would use beacons
on their vehicles. Even the President and Prime Minister will not be exempted from following the new rule.
India, which claims to be the largest democracy in the world, is at times taunted for not following democratic principles in letter and spirit. However, this decision intends to strengthen democratic values in the country.
The masses of both India and Pakistan are irked by the VIP culture prevailing in their respective countries. Whenever VIPs move, flaunting the red beacons atop their vehicles the accompanying entourage of security vehicles blocks traffic, sometimes for hours, disrupting the routine of ordinary citizens. There have been instances where patients on the way to hospitals have expired because of the delays caused by VIP movement. Normal life comes to a halt as the state machinery, including the police and law enforcing agencies, take to assisting the move of the VIP on the roads.
Narendra Modi may be accused of many failures but he cannot be questioned on trying to make Indian society more democratic-minded. Although his political rival in the Delhi government, the Aam Aadmi Party, was created to renew equality among the masses, it is Modi who has taken the lead in establishing the power of the masses.
Within a few hours of the historic decision, "#EveryoneVIPinNewIndia" became the top trend on Twitter. Welcoming the decision, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje in a tweet said: "Curtailing the use of #RedBeacon is a welcome and forward looking step towards having more people-friendly Government #EveryoneVIPinNewIndia."
Minister of Textile Smriti Irani tweeted her official car's picture after removing the red beacon and said, "Removed 'Lal Batti' from my car. PM @ narendramodi ji's decision is a welcome step towards reaffirming our belief in #EveryoneVIPinNewIndia." Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs Vijay Goel and Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office, posted videos of their cars without beacons. In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said he has stopped using the red beacon with immediate effect.
These were some of the reactions from the VIPs themselves but the response of the Indian masses was equally positive, who welcomed the decision. While Modi is taking the step of eliminating VIP culture, there is much more he can do if he wants to be remembered in posterity as one of India’s most democratic leaders. He needs to rein in the extremists in Indian society, who have made life miserable for the minorities comprising the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and the low caste Hindus — the Dalit. Ever since Narendra Modi’s Bharatyia Janta Party ( BJP) came to power, Hindutva extremists have been given a free hand to target the minorities. Muslims in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) are being regularly targeted with oppression, which includes killing, raping and incarcerating the hapless Kashmiris. On July 8, 2016, popular Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani was targeted and killed by Indian law enforcing agencies in IOK. When unarmed youth came out to protest the wanton slaughter, they were deliberately targeted by Indian police and army with pellet guns. The pellet guns have resulted in the death of hundred of youth and blinding of thousands of Kashmiri boys. Even international human rights organizations have taken notice of this reign of terror prevailing in IOK but Modi’s government has shown no let up in its persecution of the Kashmiris who only demand their just right of a plebiscite to determine their fate as promised by the UN.
Minorities in the rest of India have not been safe either. Churches have been burnt, mosques and gurduwaras destroyed while minority Muslims, Christians, Sikh and Dalit have been massacred.
Cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion but under the BJP rule, this extremism has been overstretched. Muslims slaughtering cows or even selling them have been lynched and killed in the name of religion. The wave of extremism has so disturbed even the fair-minded Hindu intellectuals that a large number of them have returned their national awards to the governments in protest. Some of them are octogenarians and had participated in the freedom struggle. They are so disgusted by the harsh treatment meted out to the minorities that they have demanded a crackdown on the orthodox Hindu Brahmins who attack and kill minorities with religious fervour and also enjoy the patronage of the state.
International academics and litterateurs like Noam Chomsky have also taken cognizance of the rot that has set in and an application signed by over a thousand international writers, thinkers and teachers has been submitted to Narendra Modi to take concrete steps to stem the rot but it has fallen on deaf ears.
Another malady afflicting the Indian masses is the advent of rape. Young girls in New Delhi and elsewhere are unsafe as they are attacked and raped on a regular basis. Moral depravity has reached an extent that two septuagenarian Christian nuns were raped and killed.
Ordinary Indians may rejoice at the ban on the use of flashing red beacons, an offensive symbol of the superiority of the ruling class, but in effect they should be demanding the eradication of religious extremism from India. A country which assassinated its own founding father Mahatma Gandhi, only because he wanted an end to the mass massacre of Muslims departing from India for the promised land of Pakistan, ought to do better than that. Mahatma Gandhi was a champion of the downtrodden and preached equality for all citizens; he shunned violence and extremism, yet he met a violent end at the hands of Nathuram Godse, an ardent member of the Hindu extremist group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It is equally deplorable that Narendra Modi continues to be an active member of the RSS and despite being elected as the Prime Minister of India, follows the diktat of the RSS chief.
The devil is in the details. During the election campaign of 2014, Modi had reached out to his parent Sangh Parivar for support in the general elections. After Modi’s pyrrhic victory, the Sangh Parivar demanded its pound of flesh: high positions for members of the RSS and a free hand to embrace extremism and crack down on the Indian minorities. Modi had no option but to relent. The rest is history. Joy Hind!