‘Lal batti’ goes from May 1, no exception

New Delhi, April 19

Moving to scrap the “VIP culture” in the country, the Narendra Modi-led NDA government today decided to ban from May 1 the use of red beacons atop vehicles of ministers and government officials, including the President, Prime Minister, chief ministers and judges. The decision, taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister and apparently at his behest, made no exceptions. In another decision, the Cabinet gave ex-post facto approval for the introduction of the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017, and the National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017, in Parliament. Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said red beacons would be banned from May 1 and blue beacons would be allowed only on emergency vehicles like fire engines, ambulances and police vans. The beacons will go, but restrictions will continue when the most protected leaders of the country are on the move, especially the President or the PM. In recent weeks, PM Modi had been emphatic about ending “lal batti culture” — a term that has come to represent massive public inconvenience to make way for “VIPs” in cars with flashing red lights and hooters. He demonstrated his conviction for ending this culture last week, when his convoy moved “in normal traffic” — without any route restrictions or road blocks—to the Delhi airport to receive Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He had also called a meeting last week to discuss how the move could be implemented and sources said Modi had already taken a decision and just informed about it to the Cabinet.