India bans red car beacons to end elitist culture
New Delhi (AFP) – India said Wednesday it will ban ministers and senior officials from using red beacons on their cars to cut through traffic, a longstanding privilege that has caused resentment and accusations of elitism.
From May 1 only emergency services will be allowed to use the flashing beacons to move swiftly through India’s notoriously congested streets.
“We are removing the rule which allows state and central government to specify who can use the red lights,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said at a news conference in New Delhi.
“From May 1, no vehicle will have a red light. There will be no exceptions.”
The red beacon, perceived as a symbol of privilege and arrogance, is used by ministers and top bureaucrats to cut through traffic while on official business.
But often even lower-level politicians and officials misuse the beacons to show off their importance, especially in smaller towns.
It is also common for policemen to put up barricades and block routes to allow free passage to dignitaries while the rest have to wait for the roads to open.
“It’s a huge democratic decision,” said road transport minister Nitin Gadkari.
Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took the lead in 2015 by asserting he would not have the red beacon on his car.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the son of a tea-seller who takes pride in his humble beginnings, often breaks protocol to shake hands and pose for photos with the public.