No 'lal batti' cars from May 1
Trinamool Congress-led Govt in West Bengal under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee was the first to remove red beacons followed by Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2013 during his 49-day regime.
Come May 1, 'lal batti' cars or vehicles with red beacons will be a thing of the past as the government has barred their use by VVIPs, including the President, the Prime Minister and chief ministers.
Seeking to end the VIP culture, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided that beacon lights will be removed from all vehicles, except emergency vehicles, like ambulances and fire brigade.
The vehicles with beacon lights, which are seen as a symbol of VIP culture, "have no place in a democratic country", the government said.
"After May 1, no one will be able to put red light atop his/her vehicle. The blue light will be used only for emergency vehicles in the country...Neither the states nor the Centre will have the power to give any special permission (for use of beacon lights)," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after the Cabinet meeting.
He said the use of red beacons atop vehicles has been a matter of discussion and debates for long as to why certain people have special privileges on road.
The matter was under discussion for some time and "the Prime Minister took the decision and informed the Cabinet," Jaitley said, adding amendments will be made soon in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules to give effect to the decision.
A rule that empowers the Centre or state governments to allow the use of red beacon lights to dignitaries will be altogether removed from the statute books, the minister said.
"There will be no exception for anyone. The reason is very clear that the rule itself is being removed from the rule book," he added.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari was the first Union Minister who took the red beacon off his official vehicle immediately after the Cabinet meeting.
Gadkari said: "this government is a government of masses and has decided to abolish VIP culture of beacon lights and sirens".
Beacons, however, will be allowed on vehicles concerning emergency and relief services, ambulance, fire service etc. In light of the decision, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will make necessary provisions in the law.
The move is a first at the national level, but there are precedents by state governments of not using the red beacons. The Trinamool Congress-led government in West Bengal under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee was the first to remove beacons from VIP vehicles in Bengal. This was followed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2013 during his 49-day regime. Kejriwal continued the practice after the party came to power with an unprecedented mandate in 2015.
The other states that followed the steps of Mamata Banerjee government are Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. After taking over as Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh discontinued the practice for ministers and then Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath followed suit.
However, there are some ministers in the Modi cabinet, too, who have not used the red beacon since taking over the charge of their ministries, which include Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and others.