By Vijay Darda | 24-04-2017
Just the removal of red beacons from atop the vehicles will not end the VIP culture. The very mentality needs to be changed
At long last, the central government has finally decided that the cars of VIPs will no longer sport red, yellow, blue beacons. Indeed, for a long time the common man had bottled up his anger against these beacons. For, the tradition of stopping vehicular traffic for these ‘colourful lights’ had troubled the common man more than anything else. These lights had became the main weapon of VIP culture. The removal of these beacons has hurt the ego and arrogance of the leaders and officers. I congratulate Modiji for this bold step.
You will be amazed to know that even if the number of VIPs in all the countries of the world is added together, the number of VIPs in India will be many times more. Available statistics show that there are 84 VIPs in Britain, 109 in France, 125 in Japan, 142 in Germany, 205 in Australia, 252 in the US, 282 in South Korea, 312 in Russia and 435 in China. But in India, this figure runs up to more than 5.79 lakhs. The question arises as to why so many people are considered VIPs?
It is said that in a democracy, the common man holds the key. It is the common man’s vote which forms the government. From the leader to the officer, all are the servants. But we all know what the reality is! From the minister to lawmaker, legislator and leader, all are above the people and do not even want to be seen among the common man. As soon as someone becomes a minister or an officer, his behavior changes.
Today’s generation born and brought up in the red, blue, yellow-beacon culture probably will not even know that wherever Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, went, he had just one motorbike rider as a pilot. When Indiraji was the Prime Minister, just one vehicle moved ahead of her car as a pilot car. Even in Mumbai, till the 1970s only the governor and the chief minister had a red light atop their cars and that too without flash! No minister was allowed to sport a red light on his or her car. Today, even when a legislator comes, he is accompanied by five to seven vehicles! If any minister is passing by, the vehicular traffic is stopped. Obviously, the common man of this country is being inconvenienced most because of this VIP culture.
The question therefore, arises is what will happen if red, blue, yellow beacons are removed? Will the autocracy of politicians and officers be done away with? It seems that this step of the government will make a difference but it should not be expected to make much difference because the autocracy is more a matter of mentality than anything else. The desire to be different from the common man among our leaders and officers is the result of this mentality. Its effect is also deep. When a collector or commissioner arrives in a village, it seems as if the king has come! The leader has to go to the public every five years, so he is afraid, but there is no accountability for the bureaucracy. Modiji should also think about this. Some officers, however, are very friendly and want to be close to the common man, but the common man has been so far removed that he can not even get close. I think it is important to take initiative on a wide scale to end this VIP culture. Governors and administrators will have to be taught that you are not the masters of the public; you are the servants and will remain as servants!
The question must be arising in your mind that when it was not a VIP culture till the 1970s, how did it flourish? Former Cabinet secretary V Balachandran had mentioned in one of his articles that it was first started by the police department. Police vehicles started sporting stars and flags. After that, the officials sitting in the secretariat felt why they should stay behind? They gradually changed the rules and coloured lights were fixed atop the cars, the fact that no one had any need for them notwithstanding. To silence the leaders in power, similar arrangements were made for them too. As the market of lights flourished, these coloured beacons became status symbols. This was how the leaders and officials got detached from the common man!
I’ll tell you an instance. My ‘Babuji’ freedom fighter Jawaharlal Darda was being sworn-in in the Maharashtra cabinet. Ministers were given car with red beacon and siren. A minister was upset that his light was not flashing properly. He immediately went to the market and brought a new beacon and a loud siren and put it on his car.
You will be surprised to know that the colour lights atop cars everywhere in the world are for emergency vehicles only. India is probably the only country where cars sport so many types of lights or beacons without any emergency. Everyone here wants to be a VIP. There are different categories of security cover like X, Y or Z which politicians compete to grab.
Here, if Modiji travels in the metro train, TV channels keep running the footage all day long, but do you know that Mark Rutte, the prime minister of Netherlands, one of the richest countries in the world, goes to his office from home on a bicycle. I went to China with then prime minister Narasimha Rao. The prime minister of China was also present in a program. He came by a government car but when he left, he left on a bicycle. I immediately asked him why are you leaving on a bicycle? His answer was – when necessary I came by the car. My duty is over, now I am going home on my bicycle! Will our leaders and officers present such an example?
Before I conclude…
Another citadel of Congress collapsed! The BJP has won the Latur Municipal Corporation election for the first time. Last time, the BJP did not get a single seat and this time it got 36! Congress has been defeated for the first time in 65 years. People are refusing dynastic politics. I am a born Congressman. Therefore, it is natural for me to be seriously worried. There is no harm in admitting that the present time belongs to the BJP, but what has happened to the Congress? The answer to this question must be found. What has gone wrong? Why is Congress failing to win the trust of the common man? Will Congressmen try and find answers to these questions?
I have travelled to many countries of the world. I have also been trying to understand their politics, society and power closely. Based on my experience, I can say that the kind of VIP culture India has is not found anywhere in the world. Why do our officers and leaders want to look completely different from the common man? There is the need to change this mentality.