While Maharashtra ministers are flouting rules by using red beacons on their private vehicles, bureaucrats are also following suit. Several officers of the state government have beacons on their cars even though they are not entitled to use them, according to rules set up by the state in April 2014.
HT had reported on July 12 how ministers in the state have been flouting rules by using beacons on their personal vehicles.
Beacons — the symbol of the government’s power and authority — do not just guarantee immediate entry into every government establishment such as the Mantralaya, but it is also a status symbol for many. “Several officials get entry anywhere just by keeping a beacon on the dashboard,” said an official, adding that many people put beacons to avoid toll and get preference at traffic signals.
HT found that several officers have been using the amber and blue beacons, including in the CM’s office, even after the SC asked governments to issue guidelines to curb its rampant use.
In the state administration, officers at the secretary level and above are entitled to use the beacon on official cars. However, if they are serving any of the government undertakings or public sector units, they can’t use the same. The general manager of BEST Jagdish Patil, vice-chairman and managing director of MSRTC Ranjitsingh Deol, financial advisor and chief auditor of MSRTC Eknath More and the chief executive officer of Maharashtra Maritime Board Atul Patane are just some of the names who use amber beacons on their official cars.
Jagdish Patil said: “The old vehicle that I am using had a beacon even before I joined. It has always been covered since then. It hasn’t been removed because it will lead to leakage in the car. But it isn’t put on a new vehicle bought for the general manager.” None of the other officers responded to text messages or phone calls by HT.
Many officials keep their vehicle beacons covered with a white or black cover, but according to transport officials, it is illegal even though kept covered. “It’s a violation of Supreme Court guidelines even if kept covered,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
Even transport minister Diwakar Raote’s personal secretary is using a government vehicle (MH 04 EP 2222) provided by the motor vehicle department (MVD) with a blue beacon. RTO sources said the officer concerned is not entitled to an official car or a beacon.
The transport commissioner’s office, which is supposed to stop the misuse of beacons, recently issued stickers authorising the use of beacons to four junior officials in the chief minister’s office, which is a violation of the Supreme Court directives.
Similarly, several other officials from the Mantralaya, particularly the home department, have been using vehicles provided by the police, excise, MSRTC and other departments, with beacons. Although two years have passed since the new rules on the use of beacons came into force, several IAS and non-IAS officers continue to use beacons.
On directives of the apex court in December 2013, the state government pruned the list of posts entitled to use beacons and published a revised list of the post in 2014.
Only top officials above the secretary level in the state government, police officials of ranking above the inspector general of police and other police officials of the same rank and regional commissioners are allowed to use amber beacons without flashers, while top-level district officials are entitled to use blue beacons.
In October 2014, the transport commissioner’s office asked various departments to ensure their department officials remove the beacons on their vehicles, if they are not entitled to use them. It had also directed all the RTOs across the state to take action against the illegal use of beacons. Transport commissioner Shyam Vardhane said he is will check with his officials. “I will discuss the issue with my officers and comment on it later,” he said.
According to the provision in section 108 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR)-1989, the state government can grant permission to VVIP, VIP and government officials for red or amber beacons on official vehicles. The city RTOs conducted a special drive to curb the illegal use of the beacons twice since 2014, but no action has been taken against the bureaucrats.