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Home / Analysis / Stalin on train, Rijiju on plane prove VIPs rule India

Stalin on train, Rijiju on plane prove VIPs rule India

This has been a week of VIPs, who have ceremoniously exhibited with all their might how holding political or bureaucratic positions can help you manipulate the system.

analysis Updated: Jul 02, 2015 19:40 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Hindustan Times
A-screen-grab-of-DMK-leader-MK-Stalin-slapping-a-passenger-in-Chennai-Metro-on-Wednesday-Source-Youtube( )

This has been a week of VIPs, who have ceremoniously exhibited with all their might how holding political or bureaucratic positions can help you manipulate the system.

DMK leader M K Stalin, one of Tamil Nadu's leading politicians, slapped a man on the newly launched Chennai Metro. He offered no apology or regret. The news about Stalin came after reports that a Leh-Delhi flight was delayed by more than an hour because of union minister Kiren Rijiju. Three passengers of the Air India flight were allegedly offloaded to accommodate Rijiju and his aide.

On Monday, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis' principal secretary was accused of delaying a Mumbai-Newark flight for more than 90 minutes, being unable to provide a valid visa.

Stalin's slapping video went viral and social media platforms were flooded with reactions expressing disappointment over the alleged arrogance of politicians.

"Disappointed that citizen didn't slap Stalin back. That was the chance to teach him and other politicians a big lesson. Public aren't servants (sic)," tweeted @SuperGops.

India has a long history of politicians demanding special treatment, a simple Google search on "VVIP culture in India" will reveal.

What's more shocking is that, many a time, they cross the line and resort to misbehavior whenever their privileges are challenged.

Last month, Bihar MP, Pappu Yadav allegedly misbehaved with an air hostess on a Patna-Delhi Jet Airways flight and threatened to beat her with his slippers after she asked him not to dump leftovers in the aisle.

Who are these VIPs and why should they deserve special treatment and access? What gives them a sense of impunity against everything? The common man has a right to know why some people are treated specially, and that too mostly, at the expense of the public exchequer.

And what many see as our political classes' abiding sense of entitlement even in the face of the country's largescale poverty, federal lawmakers are reportedly seeking to double their monthly salary of Rs 50,000, besides asking for a substantial raise in their perks, including free air travel for spouses, children and their attendants.

While going about your work, you must have got stuck because traffic was halted to let a VIP speed his way.

"Elected officials, senior bureaucrats, high ranking police and military officers all wave flags and flash red lights in a race for privilege," wrote Shahana Basu Kanodia on India's VIP culture in the Daily Mail.

India's VIP culture is an undemocratic system which establishes that people holding public office must be treated in a superior manner. It's their right to whiz past you in a white ambassador with a red beacon.

But aren't public officials meant to serve the people? Then why do they like to flaunt their power and end up making life difficult for the people?

In 2013, senior advocate Harish Salve had argued in the Supreme Court against VIP culture. He said, "Let me point out that the problem has become an endemic and a part of our political culture."

Salve argued that provisions such as providing security and use of beacon lights were being misused and coming in way of right to equality of citizens. In response, the Supreme Court had asked Centre, states and Union territories to furnish details of expenses incurred on providing security to VIPs.

"Everyone has a fundamental right to use a public road. Why should those cars with 'red lights' get precedence over others? Indiscriminate use of power in placing VIPs in a high dignitary category results in abuse of power. Positional security or security due to threat perception becomes a symbol of power. If power is misused, it runs riot on ordinary citizens," said one of the justices hearing the case.

(The views expressed are personal. The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990)