Thursday, April 20, 2017

No Lal Batti from May 1; Are senior bureaucrats happy or sad?

THE use of red beacons which symbolize powers, sense of entitlements and VVIP culture in corridors of Delhi and state capitals and also act as incentives for some candidates wanting to appear for the UPSC examinations, will come to an end from May 1 this year. The union cabinet on Wednesday took a decision to delete several sections under 108 rule (use of red, white and blue light) of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, to ensure that no dignitaries including President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, let alone bureaucrats in high positions, will be allowed to use red beacons atop their vehicles. Principal secretary-ranked IAS officer of Haryana cadre Ashok Khemka however took to Twitter to say that…
some other privileges must go too. “Use of British honorifics, 'Sir, His Excellency, My Lord' like the use of red beacon light on car also need a review”, he says. IAS-turned politician Jayaprakash Narayan says banning red lights on cars for 'VIPs' is long overdue. After welcoming the move, he added: “All other trappings of VIP culture in our democracy should go.”
According to notification no 52 (E) issued on January 1, 2002, only cabinet secretary, and not even union secretaries, is allowed to use red beacons, that too ones without flasher. But this "status" symbol is often misused across the country. 
Many senior bureaucrats who are otherwise very active in social media platforms have not however expressed their views on the subject, leaving doubts whether they were happy with the blanket ban on this VIP symbol. 
The ban was so blanket that the government decided not to allow red beacons even in vehicles meant for emergency services. Instead, Rule 108 (4) of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, will be amended to ensure that emergency services vehicles such as fire brigades, ambulances etc. will be able to use blue beacons.
After taking this bold decision to end the British legacy on red beacon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Every Indian is a VIP”. Significantly, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had not used vehicles with red beacons even before the decision was taken. Earlier, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal called for an end of VVIP culture. Also, after coming to power, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh (of the Congress) and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath (of the BJP) issued directives against use of red beacons by ministers and bureaucrats. Among other CMs, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee too travels in vehicles without having red beacons.


  1. It makes no sense to stop the red beacon. The lead car, the escort cars and the large motorcade accompanying the VIP will be hard to miss.

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  3. Lt. General (R) KapoorApril 21, 2017 at 5:18 PM

    A step in the right direction. Sonia Gandhi did express during the Congress/UPA rule for removal of red beacons, but, they never came out with a Cabinet Note/Decison/Legigislation/Act on this issue.

    Narendra Modi is right is his view that "Every Indian is a VIP." If this the way things are until 2019 (with no religious riots anywhere in the country), Modi will become PM again serving a second term with full majority.

    The only beacon that should given is to the Police and the Armed Forces. The blue beacon to Police and Red becaon for Army/Navy/Air Force. This is an exception because there is a different between security forces, armed forces of the state to prevent attacks, riots and maintaining peace in India.

    It is sad to know that candidates choose IAS and prepare for civil services not to serve people but to flash red beacons. Arrogance cannot be tolerated anymore from the IAS cadre.

  4. With all due respect, why should armed forces have red beacon? I fail to understand this logic.

    Emergency services such as ambulance, and police I can understand because of the nature of their duties brings them into close contact daily with motorists but how does armed forces fit into the picture.

    The only time army vehicles have occasion to be in an urban area is when units are shifting in / shifting out or when senior officers attend HQ. None of those qualify as 'emergency' services.

    Lt. Gen Kapoor (R)'s idea seems to be a desperate attempt to retain some VIP status for senior officers. No doubt that will be used more to enable the missus of some Maj Gen / Lt Gen to park her official car instead of any productive purpose. I am ashamed that such officers belonged to the same institution as I did.

    Brig. S. S. Dhillon (r)

    1. Lt. General (R) KapoorApril 22, 2017 at 3:11 PM

      I never said red beacon should be reserved for Army officers alone and also did not say it should be attached to the cars of Maj Gen/Lt Gen rank officers alone. You are making stuff on your own.

      If you read my post carefully, my statements clearly say "Beacon should be given to the officers of the Armed Forces i.e all Army/Navy/Air Force".

      Red Beacon in the Armed Forces should be attached only to official vehicles (not private and personal vehicles) of the Armed Forces from the rank of Lt. Col (and equivalent) onwards.

      Red Beacon is necessary for the officers of the Armed Forces for places in the North East (especially for places bordering China and Pakistan) and also places like Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh where India Amred Forces is the de-facto head of security forces in these special regions. Beacon allow fast movement of the concerned in an emergency and traffic in these region alone.

      Also if you see J&K hates Armed Forces officials and also in areas where Muslim majority regions of India. Army cars cant even park in Muslim areas (I have seen it). The beacon here is for concern of the state security to maintain unity of India.

    2. With due respect sir, your reasons are not comprehensible.

      Red beacons (and also blue, yellow, beacons) facilitate movement of vehicles in heavy traffic areas like cities and urban areas.

      In field units this is hardly a problem and on a day-to-day basis is never a problem.

      I also fail to understand why you bring up J&K. Difficulties faced by government vehicles in J&K is not unique to army. Even civil administration face similar problems. Having a red beacon is not going to be much help unless there is some manpower or force to back it up.

      Your reply seems to be a standard demand of armed forces officers to seek parity with civil officers. It has nothing to do with the utility of such symbols.

      I have reflected on my years in service and I fail to find a single instance when the red beacon was of any assistance beyond superficial benefit and boosting my ego.

      Trust you can see my point.

      Brig. S.S. Dhillon (r)

    3. Lt. General (R) KapoorApril 25, 2017 at 6:07 PM


      You are wrong. This is essentially the reason why the civil establishment, officers in the civil service system, officials in MoD, politicians and civilians (the public) have taken military establishment, NDA officers and Indian Armed Forces personnel for a damn ride.

      Let me give you a specific example. In the WoP (Warrant of Precedence) of 1937, Inspector General of Police was directly ranked with rank of Brigadier/equivalent in the Armed Forces.

      Now, IGP's think, they rank with Joint Secretary (GOI). Few months before, Major Generals were ranked with Principal Director of AFHQ.

      I can vouch, time will be soon (15 yrs from now) that a Brigadier will be tied to a Deputy Secretary (GOI) and Lt Gen to a Director (GOI). Red Beacons taken away, armed forces getting killed in the border, no job after retirement, politicians insulting armed forces personnel in TV show. Why are people even joint Armed Forces?

    4. Sir

      You are confusing the issue of parity with civilian establishment with utility of beacons.

      I am 100% in agreement with you that pay, protocol, etc. needs to be uniform.

      However that has nothing to do with whether it is meaningful for army vehicles to have red lights. As of today mechanised formations do not have beacons on either armour, SFGs, IFVs or transport vehicles as a rule so your earlier argument that it allows "fast movement" is erroneous.

      Let us come back to the point of the government's decision. These beacons have just become a status symbol to aspire to and I feel hon'ble PM took the right decision to do away with such indicators of power and status.

      I also take objection to your last paragraph regarding officers and ranks getting killed, no job etc. Armed forces is a voluntary professional organisation and those who join are aware of risks and limitations. I am proud to have served my country for 33 years but it was a voluntary decision and my contribution is no more than the lakhs of teachers, doctors, lawyers and other professions who are also working. I do not claim any special status due to my career because I know that if I did not join the army someone else would have done so.

      Good day to you sir.

      Brig. S.S. Dhillon (r)

  5. Dear Shri Kapoor,

    At one hand you are expressing pleasure that now every Indian will be VIP. At the other you want a completely different treatment for the officers of armed forces. Fact is fact. A serving civil servant, entrusted with the duties of maintenance of law and order practically needs beacon more than the officers from armed forces. This is a genuine requirement for any law enforcement agency and it is not an expression of arrogance.

  6. every work in public service is equally important and therefore parity must be maintained. if decision is taken to remove the beacons it should be made applicable to all and should not be permitted in the name of emergency service etc. this is simply an eyewash. vip culture of the politicians is not solely dependent on beacons. most of them enjoy different levels of govt. / private security / protocol and will remain unaffected. moreover, those who are not entitled to have beacons outside the vehicle are keeping the same inside the vehicle which has equal effect for all practical purposes.