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What’s in a red light? A lot. First of all, it’s a status symbol. It’s a license given to a car to scare commuters. It’s a license to park the car in a ‘no parking’ zone. A red beacon car parked in a party venue lifts the status of the host. Occupant of a red beacon car is entitled for privilege everywhere – office, shopping mall, petrol pump etc. It also does not matter if the car occupant is the actual person who is entitled for the facility. His spouse, children, relatives, friends and foes can enjoy the same privilege. They just have to been seen in the car or getting out of it. There is nothing wrong in it, common people think. They think, if they could one day be inside such a car. Commoners are sometimes seen chasing red beacon car on the street, not with any criminal intention, but to get the share of privilege in the traffic. Such is the charisma of the red beacon!

There is no wonder one legislator in Meghalaya assembly is so peeved at a recent notification that he decided to call the chief secretary ‘Sir’, in protest! The state government recently issued a notification, as per a Supreme Court order, allowing use of red lights only on official vehicles of constitutional authorities and ‘high dignitaries. As per the list, only cabinet ministers are allowed to use red beacons besides the chief secretary and Meghalaya Public Service Commission (MPSC) chairperson and a few officials and dignitaries. No legislator is granted the facility. For the aggrieved legislator in the assembly, the government order has deprived the MLAs of their ‘right’. Many others might have supported him by heart. He reasoned that he reaches the assembly late for not having red beacon and a security vehicle. He also wondered if the status of a chief secretary is higher than that of an elected representative, who carries the mandate of several thousand people. Good reasons. But why are these reasons? Why a House has to debate red beacon. Because the red beacon is not only to ensure that the Very Important Person (VIP) does not lose his precious time in traffic. It has more to do with the other unofficial advantages enjoyed by the VIP and his kin.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 15)