The state cabinet’s resolution to comply Supreme Court’s directives on limiting the use of red light beacon with flashers on vehicles is certainly welcome. Following the directives, the state cabinet has decided that red beacon flashers will be narrowed down to five dignitaries only. They are the Governor of Manipur, Chief Minister, deputy Chief Minister, Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly and Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court. It may be recalled that Supreme Court had directed all states to restrict the number of VIPs using the red beacon. A Bench of Justice G.S Singhvi and C. Nagappan gave the ruling on December 2013, on a writ petition from Abhay Singh, directing the states to amend their respective Motor Vehicle Rules to limit the use of red beacon. The ruling further directed to impose exemplary fine on those who misuse it. The Bench maintained: “The red lights symbolise power and the stark differentiation between those who are allowed to use them and the ones who are not. A large number of those using vehicles with red lights have no respect for the laws, and they treat the ordinary citizens with contempt. The use of red lights on the vehicles of public representatives and civil servants has perhaps no parallel in the world democracies.”
The Court ruling traced back the origin of the red light beacon to the days of the British Raj. Clearly, the ruling is against those people who misuse power mostly on roads. We, as common commuters on road have been witness to ‘power plays’ of VIPs whenever they pass with their cavalcade. Some of us have not just been witness, but also have been victim of their abuses. In Manipur, one might say, the removal of the red light beacon would bring a little change. This is because even if you remove the red light beacon, the haughty nature of VIPs will perhaps never change. Most importantly, the vehicles of the VIPs must be made to maintain a speed limit. On any given day, no matter how congested the traffic is, one can sense the arrival of the VIP from a good distance. Blaring horns from their cavalcade would scream endlessly at the commuters around. In most cases, the security vehicles leading the cavalcades are the primary source of nuisance. They have little sense of respect for the common commuters on the road. With no sign of any possible remedy of the traffic chaos that we witness everyday on the roads, a VIP cavalcade adds woes to the already perturbed commuters. Should we also remind that haughtiness on the road by those in ‘power’ does not confine to VIPs alone. The army and the paramilitary forces, along with the state police regularly flex their muscles on the roads. Needless to explain that their jobs demand swift actions, for instance, reaching a place of crime without wasting any time. Their service to the people is important, no doubt. But that should not be a license to harass the common commuters. The haughty attitude must also go away along with the removal of the red beacon. As for the horns, the Court ruling also mentions of regulating the multi-toned horns on the roads. The state cabinet must also pay attention to the directive of amending the existing Motor Vehicle Rules. We suggest it should address the perennial problem of traffic congestion, along with other problems on the roads. Let the removal of the red light beacon be a symbolic beginning for a good planning and a robust execution.