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THE UNION Cabinet on Wednesday decided to ban the use of red beacons on all VIP vehicles, including those of the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, from May 1. Emergency services, like ambulances and fire brigade, will be allowed to use blue beacons. “From May 1, no person in the country will be able to put a red light on their vehicles. There is no exception to this,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, briefing mediapersons after the Cabinet meeting.
“The government is of the considered opinion that beacons on vehicles are perceived as symbols of VIP culture and have no place in a democratic country,” said the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways in a statement. It hailed the decision as a “historic” step towards strengthening healthy democratic values. “This government is a government of the common masses, and has decided to abolish the VIP culture of beacon lights and sirens,” said Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
During the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have announced that Rule 108 (I) and 108 (II) of the Motor Vehicles Act, which allow central and state governments to permit red beacons for dignitaries, would be scrapped. Sources said the matter was not listed in the agenda, and Modi made the announcement in the middle of the meeting.
“Every Indian is special. Every Indian is a VIP,” he later tweeted. “It should have gone long ago. Glad that today a strong beginning has been made… these symbols are out of touch with the spirit of new India”. Besides the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, many other dignitaries like the Lok Sabha Speaker, Chief Justice of India, Governors, Chief Ministers, Chief Justices of High Courts, Supreme Court judges and Leader of Opposition are currently allowed red beacons.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had also asked all state governments to restrict the list of VIPs who are allowed beacons on their vehicles. Some state governments have already barred the use of red beacons. In Punjab, for instance, soon after winning the Assembly polls, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh decided to remove red beacons from all government vehicles, including those of the chief minister and all ministers.
In Uttar Pradesh too, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered that no state minister would be allowed to use red beacons on their vehicles. And in Delhi, Chief Minister Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said that no state minister or official would use red beacons.