Two days after Captain Amrinder Singh's cabinet decided to do away with the red-beacons in Punjab, a reality check done by India Today on Monday revealed that ending the VIP culture by mere removing the beacons from the official vehicles may not be a solution.
A visit to the parking lot of Punjab government secretariat revealed that Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh himself came in a beacon-fitted official vehicle. His driver tried to remove the beacon when our camera was recording visuals.
"Abhi notification nahi aayi hai hame pata nahi (we have not received the notification yet)," the driver said and then removed the beacon from the vehicle. However, chief secretary's official flag remained fixed on the vehicle.
Besides the chief secretary, state's power minister Rana Gurjit Singh has already announced that he will continue to use the red beacon despite the restrictions.
Meanwhile, red and blue beacons fitted on hundreds of official vehicles in various parts of Punjab were removed hours after the new state government decided to do away with the symbol of VIP culture. Besides the public representatives like MLAs, chairmen of Zila Parishads, MPs, officers including secretaries, deputy commissioners and senior police officers besides the members of religious institutions like the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabanchak Committee (SGPC) will not be allowed to use red and blue beacons on their vehicles.
However, the state government has not made it clear whether the district and High Court judges will be exempted from using the beacon-fitted vehicles or not.
When questioned, state's Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said: "Using red or any type of beacon on any vehicle will be a crime in the state now. Any vehicle owner entering Punjab will have to remove the beacon failing which his vehicle can be impounded with imposition of fine. The minister gave the statement before the cabinet decision. The decision will be enforced in letter and spirit".
However, when questioned Badal left the decision on the judiciary and said it will be upto them whether to follow the state government or not.
The opposition believes that the red beacons are just a symbol of VIP culture and mere removing the beacons will not be a solution to end this culture. What is required is to stop the VIPs from misusing the powers and the VIP treatment which is given to the VIPs and their relatives.
"Removing beacons will just have a cosmetic effect on the VIP culture which is an inseparable part of the political and bureaucratic societies. VIPs will be using the luxury vehicles, will be misusing the office staff, will get the VIP treatment everywhere. Will the chief minister stop using the helicopter or using the escort vehicles or security?" Vineet Joshi, former advisor to Parkash Singh Badal, said.
The former SAD-BJP government was liberal in providing red beacon facility not only to the Zila Parishad's chairmen but also to the members of SGPC. Zila Parishad bosses were even allowed to use beacons on their private vehicles. However the facility to SGPC members was withdrawn later as it was challenged in the court.
Take pics from mail by Manjeet Sehgal.