The end of the era of the red beacon, the much-disliked “lal batti” in Hindi, atop vehicles of the high and the mighty, after a Union Cabinet decision on Wednesday, is a positive step. The President and the Prime Minister will also not be exempt, and this is a good thing. Let’s hope that day too will dawn when a vehicle in the PM’s entourage can also be booked for a traffic infringement as ir happens, say, in Britain where the Prince of Wales’ cars recently attracted parking tickets. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, for all his failings, led the field in this respect. His government ended the “lal batti” for its bigwigs long ago. Then came Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, who ended the red beacon culture in his state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken this step for the whole country not a day too soon, and deserves to be congratulated. This is a cost-free decision, however, from which political brownie points can be earned. But it grates to hear the PM’s tweet, issued after the Cabinet decision, that “Every Indian is special. Every Indian is a VIP.” That is plainly not the case. Let’s not mock the poor and helpless so casually. Class and caste barriers remain tight. Those in authority enjoy almost free housing, phones, travel and medical treatment. Others have to grovel or fight for these.