The Curious case of the ‘Red Beacon’ in a Democracy

The recent demand by MP’s to allow them to ‘Hot Rod’ their cars with Red Beacons is not the only reason for this post. The other reason is because like most other fellow Indians, I have also been discomforted by a VIP holding up traffic thanks to the Red Beacon! I myself have waited patiently many a times, silently cursing the VIP’s as they whiz by with their security convoy.

Don’t they feel any guilt towards the scale of nuisance they cause to the public?
Can’t they move around in the midnight or early morning rather than peak hours?
Don’t they feel embarrassed when they see people staring at them?
These are some of the questions that pop into my mind every time I see a car with a beacon.

The day I truly understood what it meant to sit inside one of those cars with a red beacon was on the 23rd of November, 2003. The then cabinet minister Mr. Murasoli Maran passed away. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee touched down in Chennai to attend his funeral. The police and the local administration did not have enough time to chart a completely secured route from the airport to the Funeral arena. I was on the way to a coffee shop with a friend when we were stopped mid way at a busy junction. Huge crowds along both sides of the road waited for the Prime minister’s convoy to pass. We quickly got down from our bike and made way through the crowd in the hope of catching a glimpse of Vajpayee. You could feel the tension in the air as a hush engulfed the normally boisterous Chennai crowd.
And then, it happened- A jeep packed with freaky Gadgets passed by slowly. It was followed by the familiar State Police Convoy. Within a minute, another convoy of around 10 vehicles passed by at lightning speed with many staring at the crowd with a blank expression on their face and holding MP5’s in their hands. I strained my eyes really hard to adjust to the speed of the convoy in a desperate attempt to spot the car which carried India’s most powerful man but was left disappointed.
The crowd breathed easy as the sound from the beacons trailed away. But the cops remained rigid and tense, barking at pedestrians to hold their spot and not move. Just then, another convoy of vehicles roared past us at unimaginable speed with many cars fitted with red and blue beacons.
This time, even the cops relaxed as the show was over and we all got back to our bikes and our lives.

That day I realized what it meant to be powerful. I also realized how difficult it must be for somebody to taste such power and then relinquish it. But it also kindled a worrying thought inside me:
What does such power vested on individuals symbolized by the beacon mean for democracy?
Is it good that our elected representatives have so much power? What do they have so much to fear about? Aren’t they just people’s representatives who are obliged to carry out the will of their masters, the voters?

The answer is simple- In today’s democracy, particularly in India; the elected representatives have far too much power in their hands. Their decisions are not according to the will of the voters but according to their party politics, language, religion, caste, business and personal interests. Hence the eternal threat to them and their seats of power which necessitates the car with the red beacons. Take away their power and disperse it to their true masters- the people and you will automatically render the ‘Red Beaconed Car’ pointless.
The core concept of democracy is about people power where a society as a whole decides its future through the preference of the majority with a constitutional framework wherever a consensus is not reached. And this is where the elected representatives come in- To represent the will of the majority.

The day ‘Red Beacons’ are rendered pointless is the day of true victory for democracy. Every citizen in any democratic system needs to realize that a Red Beacon hangs over each ones head reminding them to do their constitutional duty and only they have the power to phase out the undemocratic Red Beacon that makes us wait today.

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