Life after beacon: MLAs complain of long wait at toll booths, cops who don’t salute

A few MLAs, mostly first-timers, who resisted the removal of the red beacon, say the timing of the decision has been particularly harsh on them.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Published:May 14, 2017 5:03 am
 Beacon, Beacon ban, Kuljit Singh Nagra, Life after beacon, Beacon respect, MLAs on beacon, Beacon ban Congress, Beacon ban exemptions, India news, Indian Express ‘The beacon was the only perk MLAs got. (Express Photo)

IT IS morning rush hour and Kuljit Singh Nagra, Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib, is on his way from Delhi to Chandigarh. His white Innova is in queue at the toll tax barrier on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway, behind at least five other cars. Nagra is fidgety. With his beacon gone, the two-term MLA hopes the only other marker of his VIP status — the sticker on his vehicle windscreen that reads “MLA” — will do the job for him. So far today, it isn’t working.

“I have 15 functions in Fatehgarh Sahib today. And I need to make a stopover in Chandigarh for half an hour. If I do not get past this toll booth, how will I make it? This is the problem with removing beacons,” he says, before quickly adding, “It’s not that I am in favour of red beacons. In fact, I got mine removed during my last term. But we need to work out a system so that we do not get delayed.”

With the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab implementing its pre-election promise of doing away with the red beacon for most VIPs, MLAs in Punjab say life hasn’t been easy ever since.

According to a notification issued on April 15, only the Punjab Governor, Chief Justice and judges of the High Court, besides ambulances, disaster recovery vehicles, police and fire services, and security vehicles are permitted to use beacons.

A few MLAs, mostly first-timers, who resisted the removal of the red beacon, say the timing of the decision has been particularly harsh on them. “Why us? Our seniors enjoyed all the perks of being MLAs. Just when we get elected, they do away with the beacon. At least ministers wield power; the beacon was the only perk MLAs got,” says a Congress legislator from Majha region. Besides the privilege of zooming past boom barriers, VIP vehicles are exempted from paying toll at booths.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, another MLA recounts how, after the beacon was removed, his vehicle was stopped at toll tax booths and he wasn’t allowed free entry into venues of state functions. “All this wouldn’t have happened if I had a beacon. The other day, a woman at a toll booth counter did not believe me when I said I was an MLA. I showed her my ID card but she said anyone can get such a card made. It took me at least five minutes, at the end of which she didn’t look too convinced but let me go,” says another Congress MLA from Majha.

Gurpartap Singh Wadala, Akali MLA from Nakodar, says the “only problem” with the removal of beacons was “all this waiting” at toll plazas. “They should devise a way,” he says.

Another first-time Congress MLA says he had bought a red beacon soon after taking oath, but now it’s of no use. “I spent Rs 2,500. Now the beacon is lying at home. I look at it everyday and laugh at myself. Why have I become an MLA? To go to my constituency, collect piles of files and bring it to the ministers?” he says.

Harinder Singh Phoolka, AAP leader in the Punjab Assembly, says the party has always been against red beacons so “I do not understand all this rant of MLAs about delays. The idea is to behave like a common man and face the hurdles they do”.

Back at the Chandigarh-Ambala highway, Nagra’s car finally reaches the counter after a wait of about 5 minutes.

“MLA sahib hain (It’s the MLA),” says the driver, craning his neck out of the window and pointing towards Nagra on the back seat. The attendant gestures to a security guard, who walks up to the vehicle and peers through the windows of the car and asks, “Kaun hain MLA? ID hai (Who’s the MLA? Do you have an identity card)?”

Nagra takes out his card and hands it to the guard, who flips it around for a while. The drivers of other cars waiting in the queue begin honking. Another guard runs up to his vehicle and asks breathlessly, “Lal batti nahi hai (Doesn’t the car have a beacon)?” He checks Nagra’s card, salutes him and says, “Sorry sir, eh dono navein munde han (These two are new comers).”

As the boom barrier finally lifts, Nagra heaves a sigh of relief and asks his driver to speed up. After a brief halt at his residence in Chandigarh, about 20 km from the toll booth, Nagra starts his onward journey towards Fatehgarh Sahib. As the vehicle passes through Landran, 30 km from Fatehgarh Sahib, Nagra looks out of the car window and says, “Look at all these policemen posted here. If I had a beacon, they would have at least given me a salute.”

Just then, a Gypsy with blue and red beacons zooms past Nagra’s car. “Look at that. It is the Deputy Commissioner’s car. They will have a free pass everywhere, but not even a truck will allow us to overtake. And I am already running late,” he says.

There are some MLAs, however, who have managed to circumvent the beacon ban. “Some of us have got ‘Government of Punjab’ written on the number plates of our vehicles and others use SUVs as pilot vehicles so that they make way for our cars. Hun assi kariye vi ki? Kujh ta karna hi pavega (What do we do… we have to do something),” says a Congress MLA from lower Malwa.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. S
    Sonam
    May 19, 2017 at 8:37 am
    TMLA &MPs are public representatives. Instead of complaining againt waiting in ques tgey should started to think of a solution how to get rid off this long queu. They should be discussing in parliament and in SLA about widening of roads etc. We are public facing this problem everyday. So experience the difficulty of a layman and start trying to solve the problem
    Reply
    1. S
      Sebastian Sangma
      May 17, 2017 at 6:40 am
      You don't èxpect force salute, you have to earn it. Police don't salute the person it's the rank or position.
      Reply
      1. J
        Jack
        May 15, 2017 at 3:18 pm
        hahahahahahahhahahaahah One large burger with extra mayo, lettuce, onions and strictly no beacon :)
        Reply
        1. A
          Ardeshir Jussavala
          May 15, 2017 at 1:16 pm
          Good. Let the b'tards suffer.
          Reply
          1. A
            Ardeshir Jussavala
            May 15, 2017 at 1:16 pm
            Good. Let the s suffer.
            Reply
            1. N
              Nagesh
              May 15, 2017 at 7:31 am
              Now you Politicians recognise pains. It is good for you to understand the fate of normal citizens. All this because of dirty administration of you politicians who don't think about common man.
              Reply
              1. P
                Prof Vijayan
                May 14, 2017 at 11:09 pm
                Even after the end of colonial rule, the colonial culture of the rulers continued, even though we are a democracy. Our PM is to be congratulated for removing the vestige of the colonial culture continuing here in the form of red beacons. People's representatives should realise that they are serving the people like all others.
                Reply
                1. R
                  Roahan Bharathan
                  May 14, 2017 at 9:19 pm
                  When common mam can wait at the toll booths ... why cant their representatives!!! They need to understand the pains of the common man!! Why are thy claiming exemptions in the first place. Shame on them. Shame... a virtue that they all lack!!!
                  Reply
                  1. V
                    Vikrant
                    May 14, 2017 at 2:45 pm
                    Why do judges need red beacon? Infact in India judiciary has become more corrupt then politicians, least accountable and completely opaque. It sounds funny when judiciary is always doing just the opposite of what it is preaching others to do.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Rene Fernandez
                      May 14, 2017 at 2:26 pm
                      MLAs are supposed to be mere servants of the public and not masters
                      Reply
                      1. T
                        TIHAEwale
                        May 14, 2017 at 1:22 pm
                        these are same thugs whose elder brothers used to hide their iden y during khalistani days and their brethen still do in kashmir valley. suckers should know how Akela Arvind is undressed today by kapil
                        Reply
                        1. D
                          Deeksha Sharma
                          May 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm
                          Once elected, they start flying. They have no regard for problems faced by the common man. Now they will learn what ordinary citizens face daily.
                          Reply
                          1. B
                            bhalchandrapangam
                            May 14, 2017 at 12:49 pm
                            These MLA/MP must understand that they need to start planning their schedule with new scenario. This is how all Indians do it on daily bassis. Dont they do their work? If they find difficult to wait, then do some work to improve the living conditions of Indians. You will also benefit from it. Stop complaining. They should also start paying the toll as all other Indians are paying. They can claim it in their office if they have receipt of it.
                            Reply
                            1. D
                              Damodar Biswal
                              May 14, 2017 at 12:40 pm
                              These politicians should experience the problems encountered by a common man.It hurts them for waiting in the toll gate n paying the toll charges.So does it hurt the common man.Why grumb ?
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                Satish Boddu
                                May 14, 2017 at 12:23 pm
                                Why should they behave like a different lot rather than understanding the problems involved and try to find out solutions. Time is valuable for everyone let these people understand the reality and address them.
                                Reply
                                1. B
                                  Brahma Panda
                                  May 14, 2017 at 12:22 pm
                                  A positive change after a long long time to wards equality, but the mind set (some still think they are more equal than others) is yet to change, which may require another 70 years!!
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    arc
                                    May 14, 2017 at 12:09 pm
                                    Get out of home early. And wait like others everywhere.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      s
                                      May 14, 2017 at 12:05 pm
                                      Why has this Kanchan Vasdev written this stupid article . Seems he is sympathising with the MLAs for the delay at toll nakas. Let these worthies see for themselves how the ordinary citizens face life on a daily basis. One month of such experience should make them come to their senses so that they lose their holier than thou at ude with the public. MLAs and MPs are meant to serve their cons uencies and not to display their importance.What earthshaking events have they to attend that requires them to jump from one place to other in a rush?
                                      Reply
                                      1. O
                                        Om sadashiv
                                        May 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm
                                        Start early mr mla. You are not a vip, the people who put their trust in are more important. Red beacon is not a p for being indecent and rash. Wait your turn and meet people on the toll plaza. Step out of your ac car.
                                        Reply
                                        1. K
                                          KARTHICM
                                          May 14, 2017 at 11:59 am
                                          Wow, complaining of being late. Why can't you solve our problems of long queues in toll booths instead of complaining. You say you lost importance, you would gain importance by doing more to your cons uency. You are now among the common man so you will feel what a commoner goes through on a daily basis.
                                          Reply
                                          1. P
                                            Pushpinder Singh
                                            May 14, 2017 at 11:55 am
                                            A very wise decision by the Government! What have these MLAs done to earn a salute from Cops. Further, these MLAs are merely the elected representatives of the people. By what right do they claim a right not to have to wait at the Tax Toll Barriers, when every other citizen experiences similar unavoidable wait.
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments