Two high-profile bureaucrats of Jharkhand — chief secretary R.S. Sharma and agriculture secretary Nitin Madan Kulkarni — have removed beacons from atop their official vehicles from Monday, a move that may change the perception of a power trip in the state in the wake of the Supreme Court order of December 10.
Striking at the self-congratulatory VIP culture that grips the lal batti brigade, the SC has restricted the use of red and yellow beacons to a very select list of dignitaries in the Centre and state. Asking all states to drastically trim the number of VIPs using red beacon in cars, it has directed the facility be given only to heads of executive, legislature and judiciary and to those holding constitutional posts.
According to the apex court order, even vehicles used by MPs, MLAs, sarpanches and the like can’t sport any beacon — red with flasher, plain red or yellow.
It has also specified that all beacons must be covered in black when their vehicles are not in use by the eligible VVIPs in question.
So far, Jharkhand has been following the 2002 state transport department notification (see box) on beacons, with a fair number of extra cars and SUVs fitted with lights and sirens in a power-hungry state to keep certain persons in “good humour”.
Former Ranchi mayor Rama Khalkho, now tainted in a cash-for-vote scam, used a red beacon while in power. Ranchi University pro V-C M. Raziuddin still moves around in a vehicle fitted with a yellow beacon. Both are not eligible to use any beacon under the 2002 notification.
But even the 2002 notification will be revised in the wake of the SC directive, which asked all states to amend (read shorten) their eligibility lists within three months.
“In the light of the recent SC order, the state administration will re-look into the whole matter and may come out with a new and revised notification,” chief secretary Sharma, who voluntarily gave up his beacon, said.
Asked why he removed his beacon though entitled to it under the 2002 notification, the Aadhaar man and senior IAS officer smiled: “It is to stay on the safe side. I do not know whether after the recent SC decision I am entitled to use a red beacon. I would like to follow the rule book.”
Kulkarni, also known as a clean IAS officer with a weighty CV, told The Telegraph that his conscience did not let him to use a beacon-fitted vehicle.
“I have gone through the Supreme Court directive carefully. It entitles very few persons holding constitutional posts to beacons,” said Kulkarni. He, according to the 2002 notification, can use a yellow beacon light in his capacity as a secretary of a state government department.
The state transport notification of 2002 was issued under Union ministry of road transport and highways guidelines issued the same year.
In Jharkhand, most MLAs, whether from the ruling or Opposition parties, get lal batti treatment, most by virtue of chairing Assembly committees. The exhaustive list will now get a welcome pruning.
Do you know anyone illegally flaunting a beacon?Tell firstname.lastname@example.org