For the common man who has to go out onto the street for work, to carry out some duty or errand, or to meet some emergency — a sty encounter with VIP culture may strike like a bolt from the blue. With wailing sirens and flashing lights, the VIP convoy goes speeding by while all other vehicles on the road are sidelined and threatened by securitymen. Those who know about such things can estimate the ‘importance’ of the VIP or VVIP by the number and types of escort vehicles, the use of red beacons with flasher or without flasher or amber beacons, and the categories of security personnel barking urgently into their walky-talkies. There are said to be about 19 categories of high dignitaries according to Central rules of 2002. It is anybody’s guess how many more categories are permitted under state police rules. With red beacons running amok in busy city roads, emergency vehicles and ambulances with blue beacons get stuck along with vehicles of the hoi-polloi for hours altogether. Meanwhile the sufferings of patients in critical condition, the terrible anxiety of their attendants inside the emergency vehicles can only be imagined. The common man reaches his office late and gets his pay docked, misses appointments, or picks up his children from school very late. But none of these sufferings matter to the powers-be. Rather, the common man has a rule of thumb — the longer the wait and greater the harassment, the higher the passing visitor is in the scale of importance. Such misuse of official machinery is sought to be justified on the grounds of ‘threat perception’ to VIPs. In February this year, while taking up this matter for consideration, the Supreme Court observed that such a perception actually becomes a ‘symbol of power’. The apex court has already banned the misuse of red beacons, while frowning upon categories like ‘high dignitaries’ and ‘constitutiol functiories’ as opposed to the spirit of a republic. In Assam, the Golaghat civil court recently asked some top government officials in Dispur to respond to a suit filed by a harassed commuter held up for over 40 minutes on tiol Highway 37 while the Chief Minister’s cavalcade of 25-30 vehicles passed by. The common litigant must insist that the Union Home ministry’s Model Police Act be followed, which says that policemen must enforce the law impartially by behaving ‘courteously’ with the public.
food for thought