If implemented in letter and spirit, the most visible impact of Centre’s ban on the use of red beacons atop vehicles of dignitaries and government officials will be in Uttar Pradesh.
How rampant and deep-rooted is the ‘batti’ (beacon) culture in country’s biggest state can be gauged from an incident where in a defiant PCS officer ordered putting up a yellow beacon on his car when the transport department launched a drive against unauthorised use of red and blue beacons.
The successive governments have launched crackdowns on illegal beacons, amended rules several times and even tried to regulate the sale of beacons in the past to check the misuse.
The efforts, however, never yielded desired results as politicians and bureaucrats being equally crazy for ‘battis’ found one or the other way to prevail upon rules.
Following the Supreme Court’s December 2013 order that was for all states as well as the Centre, Akhilesh Yadav government too had issued a notification in March 2014 pruning the list of dignitaries that were entitled to the use of red beacons with or without a flasher.
The notification gave the right to use a red beacon atop vehicles only to the Constitutional authorities that were identified to be 14.
Among them are governor, chief minister/former chief minister, Vidhan Parishad chairman, Vidhan Sabha speaker, chief justice, high court, Cabinet ministers, leader of opposition (Vidhan Parishad and Vidhan Sabha), and judges, high court. They can use a red beacon with a flasher.
Those who can use a red beacon but without a flasher are deputy chairman, Vidhan Parishad, deputy speaker, Vidhan Sabha, minister of states, deputy ministers chief secretary, state election commissioner and chairman, UP minority commission.
Similarly, the list of authorities entitled to a blue beacon use was also downsized to only 16 categories the same year though the SC order was only with regard to red beacons. Those given the right to use a blue beacon atop their official vehicle are chairman, revenue board, commissioner, industrial development, commissioner, agriculture production commissioner, all principal secretaries/ secretaries, all DGPs/ ADGPs, divisional commissioners, IGs, DIGs, district judges and judges equivalent to them, DMs, SSP/SPs ( only those who are in-charge of a districts), CMOs, ADMs/city magistrates/SDMs/ executive magistrates (posted in districts), police inspectors/ SOs,/COs/ ASPs (posted in districts) officers responsible for enforcement work in departments of transport, excise, commercial tax and forest besides, chief metropolitan magistrates and chief judicial magistrates.
“But anyone can see how rules are still violated and dignitaries use the red/blue beacons without an entitlement because they treat beacons as a state as well as status symbol,” said a senior transport department official.