Culture of privileges
Beginning from May 1 the central government has disbanded the use of red beacons and sirens on vehicles all over the country including the President of India. Prior to this decision, some states like Punjab had already banned the use of red beacons on the vehicles of dignitaries. The idea behind is to do away with VIP culture in the country and the status symbol attached to the use of red beacons and sirens. It has also become a constant irritant for the commuters when vehicles with red beacons and sirens try to zoom past a heavily congested road. This culture is probably a continuation of the prestige attached to public office since the colonial era. Not only the British masters, the Indian Babus wielded tremendous power during the colonial era and an aura of prestige and privilege was always attached to the offices that they held. That culture was inherited by the country after Independence and over the years it has evolved and spread to the present existing practices by the people holding public offices and their associates. The worst strand being the misuse of power and privilege by the lackeys and henchmen of small time local politicians which they ensure that it is made known to the people by the use of red beacons and name plates in their vehicles. With the present order becoming a law and a total ban on the use of red beacons and sirens, the states will no longer have the right to make its own list of dignitaries that allow such usage.
However, in the region especially in the states affected by militancy, a red beacon and the siren gives a whole new meaning to the symbol status and power. It is not only the high dignitaries and the local petty politicians of the ruling party but even the law enforcement agencies and the para-military make use of the red beacons and name plates in the vehicles to their advantage. Moreover, the Z category security status, one of the highest in the country that is provided to few, had so many candidates from the region during the peak of militancy. Therefore in a very bizarre way the status that the red beacons and sirens holds in the region is almost regal, loved by some loathed by many but obliged to bow down and kneel when it approaches. In the case of elected offices, this status is then misused by the personnel attached to the politician as secretaries and small time local politicians a.k.a party workers. The local police in the state also have improvised the system with two AK-47 slung personnel standing and hanging onto the back of their officer’s Jeep during town patrols, at times with a whistle in their mouth.
The one main intention of the central government by banning the red beacons is to stop its misuse by the Indian ‘VIPs’ in traffic and make them also toe the line in traffic along with the rest of the common man. It is to be seen how correctly it will be implemented in Nagaland both in letter and in spirit that is slowly becoming infamous for its serpentine traffic in its bigger towns especially Kohima. Doubts also persist if the exceptions to the rule by allowing blue beacons and sirens only for emergency vehicles will be taken advantage of in the state. In any case, the police especially the officers holding administrative posts not engaged in any emergency duty already flaunt beacons, and it will just be a matter of changing the colour of the beacons. The efficiency of government in Nagaland will be tested again, since the Supreme Court of ban on dark tinted glasses in vehicles is also being openly flouted by the state owned vehicles of the police, bureaucrats and lawmakers.