At least half a dozen ministers in Maharashtra violate the rule that red beacons —the symbol of the government’s power and authority — can be used only on their official cars. The ministers have been fixing the beacons atop their private cars, high-end models that cost much more than the vehicles the government provides them.
What the ministers are doing is in violation of a government resolution (GR) issued by the state transport department on April 4, 2014, following a SC directive to check misuse of red beacons.
Among them is the transport minister Diwakar Raote, whose department is supposed to enforce the rule. He uses a Mercedez Benz C-class car (MH 06 BE 4433) fitted with a red beacon. The car is registered in his son Umesh’s name at the Pen RTO. As a minister, he was allotted a Honda City (MH 06 AW 5321).
Rural development minister Pankaja Munde travels to Mantralaya in a Range Rover SUV. Public works (MSRDC) minister Eknath Shinde drives around in a Toyota Prado. Education minister Vinod Tawde uses a Mahindra XUV 500. None of these vehicles were allotted by the state. The penalty for using a red beacon illegally on your vehicle is a mere Rs 100.
Most ministers are allotted a Toyota Innova or a Honda City or a Skoda Octavia which fall in the expenditure limit.
“The use of red or amber or blue light is applicable only for the sanctioned vehicles assigned to the post or to the respective department,” reads the GR. It also says the official vehicles with red or amber beacons should have a sticker issued by the transport commissioner pasted on their windscreens. This is to ensure that the beacons are used only by those authorised to.
“If a minister wants to use a swanky car he is comfortable with, it’s his personal choice. But then, he should not use the red beacon on it since it is in violation of the rule. The red beacon has become a status symbol for many politicians,” said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Raote said he has officially got his personal vehicle notified by the government. “A few months ago, my car met with a serious accident. Since then I have been using my personal car instead of the government provided car. However, I have officially notified my car with the government and my car has the sticker issued by the transport commissioner’s office,” said Raote.
However, when HT contacted the transport department and the general administration department (GAD), both clarified there is no such provision in the rules and they have also not given any such permission to any minister.
Transport commissioner Shyam Wardhane, however, did not respond to text and phone queries on this issue. He had assured HT last week he would check the details with his office and comment on the issue.
An official said the GR was clear that beacons could be used only with official vehicles.