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RASHMI OBEROI | 7 MAY, 2017

There is More to VIP Culture Than Red Beacons!


“No place for VIP culture in New India; Every Person is Important” so says Prime Minister Narendra Modi amidst deep rumblings within his own party where many supporters don’t seem to want to pay heed and are not happy with this chain of events. He is right of course, but just doing away with red beacons in India does not mean the end of the VIP culture. Our so-called ‘important people’ simply cannot do away with the privileges that come with their status and all the benefits attached to it. Sycophancy runs deep in their soul.

Delve into the psyche of our society and there roosts the VIP culture syndrome. This is certainly not going to disappear overnight and neither is the mind-set going to change in a hurry. On ground level, our social and psychological programing is such that everything revolves around power. Our VIPs will continue to throw their weight around and walk around with a false superiority complex. Preferential treatment for them seems to be their birth right.

The misuse of such power further leads to corruption and the bottom line is that in all this competence is lost in the power wielding haze and only their arrogance shines through. Every known organisation is afflicted with this malady. The moment the higher authorities demand privileges, the longer the list for wrongful entitlements grow. The red beacon is only one perversion in the extensive list of false supremacy.

Now how will the ordinary Indian become special and feel on par with the high and mighty VIP? It cannot happen without a change in the social mind-set. But maybe a small start could be to do away with privileges and special treatment. And that platoon of armed security personnel encircling politicians seems to be a colossal waste of manpower. You take away these privileges and then watch egos come tumbling down.

We need a culture where our political representations and government officials are accountable to the public. There is no such mechanism in place presently. Official procedures in place are intimidating to say the least. We need the common man to feel at ease when he faces the dreaded bureaucratic red tape.

Two days back, while travelling to the airport in a cab from Gurgaon, the arterial road was particularly congested and jammed at 3 in the afternoon. Usually the afternoons are a fairly decent time to move around in and devoid of jams. But that day was bad with traffic piling up and slow movement of vehicles. My cab driver and I had assumed it was due to an accident but it was only when we inched up further that we saw hordes of cops around and cars/trucks being pushed off the main road. “Aah, must be a VIP passing through,” I had remarked shaking my head. “No Ma’am, VIP days are over. Must be something else. The days of ‘Lal Batti’ are finished,” my cab driver had quipped. And that’s when we had heard the sirens and a fleet of cars whizzing by. What a racket…no red beacons but enough police escorts, a cacophony of sirens and a trail of dust making you wonder who the very important person was!!

You can understand an ambulance or a fire brigade or a police car needing the help of a shrill siren to get people out of the way but why all this drama yet again for that one ‘VIP’ who feels the need to flaunt his/her importance. And since the past few days even as the red beacons atop vehicles are being removed, new and innovative ideas are replacing these so that the insecurities surrounding our high and mighty are not given a shaking-down.

“Oh looks like there will be no change Ma’am. That is so sad,” the cab driver had said wistfully looking at me through the rear-view mirror. My sceptical smile in return had said it all.

Our power-propelling politicians are in any case known for their tantrums - be it at airports/railway stations and even hospitals. Their retinues are no less power hungry and create a nuisance wherever they go. Look around and you will see that the VIP culture in India is omnipresent. Those of us that pay taxes can see this money being used to flaunt status symbols of VIP power and an attempt by them to get as many freebies as possible till the coffers run dry.

None of this hierarchy is from merit by the way. It is just that these very important people are made to feel special as we are a nation of hypocrites who allow a section of people to misuse power while we get denied basic rights. VIP culture has proved to destroy the political scenario of the country so far. We as ordinary citizens need to change the system and bring out the real meaning of equality and justice. We need to make India a little more systematic and do away with the mind-set that is not allowing us to get out of the VIP syndrome!

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