Ban on red beacon, beckons better days ahead

The ban on red beacon lights atop VVIP vehicles from May 1, 2017 has brought cheer to the common man who has been at the receiving end for decades. The decision taken by Narendra Modi cabinet is laudable for the reason that several attempts in the past failed but this time around the Prime Minister is keen to get rid of the red light culture.

The beacon light is a false sense of power that not just politicians and bureaucrats aspired for but in the last few decades several men and women with political clout and connections received the status to flaunt ‘power’ and even get away on the busy roads and gained entry to venues that they could never imagine getting into.

The ‘red light culture’ ensured an ego boost to Indians and provided them with a symbol to parade in public and show that they were ‘important’ people. What the ban has done is now to bring some sort of a level playing field. The common man on the road now no longer would be cold shouldered and pushed aside. The red beacon was like a crown that gave the man inside a car a superior power. That power is now taken away for good and there is no need to wait till May 1 as ministers and all and sundry have already started pulling it out in a hurry that was never seen.

That it took a cabinet decision to get rid of the red light shows how much it meant to people in power. Several earlier attempts failed and that is why this decision gains even more prominence. In pre-independent India men would carry umbrellas whilst the maharaja and nawab walked, some still do when a politician makes an entry. The end of the lal batti is a big step and augurs well for more such decisions. One hopes this is just a beginning.

If one may believe the next ban would be on the entourage that accompanies politicians. History has already proven that men of calibre never aspired for a beacon or an array of cars to follow them. The former President and missile man of India A P J Abdul Kalam is a shining example.

What the ban on lal batti culture has done is to give the common man hope. Hope of a better future where the janta janardhan too has a voice and he can stride alongside the ‘powers that be’!


Why India should worry about Chinese presence in Maldives

China is spreading its tentacles in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) and has chosen the tiny nation of islands-Maldives to do so. This is a great cause of worry for India, simply for the reason that Maldives lies in the important shipping route that includes the East-West shipping route that transports oil from Middle East to East Asia.

Though Maldives and India have had a long friendly relationship for hundreds of years due to its proximity (Just an hour’s flight from Trivandrum) the increasing Chinese presence in the archipelago is making New Delhi uneasy and for the right reasons.

India already has to deal with the US base in Diego Garcia and now China is increasing its investments in the Maldives. The ultimate aim would be to set up a military base at the tip of India. Military experts have all along cautioned the Chinese moves. Though the Chinese government says that investments are primarily in maritime infrastructure and are done for commercial gains but if one goes by their track record, the Chinese end up expanding to their naval strength. For instance, Gwadar in Pakistan and Hambantota in Sri Lanka.

The Chinese inroads into Maldives have been rapid in the last five years. From the establishment of the Chinese Embassy in the 1.5 capital Male’ to the contract of developing the Male airport to Chinese Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUGG). It may be noted that initially the contract was given to GMR Group an Indian company but as governments changed, the contract fell apart. China is also building Gadhoo port in the Southern Atolls.

The Maldivian economy is based on fishing and tourism but with globalisation and greater dependence on oil and other goods to be transported from the East to the West, the strategically located Maldives band in the middle of the Indian Ocean has gained currency and all countries including the US, China, UK and Russia are interested in the Maldives.

With just 200 of the 1,300 islands inhabited, the Maldivian government sees a chance to make the most of the uninhabited islands. As a result it ratified a legislation to allow foreigners with investment of more than a billion to own land within a specified site with a condition that at least 70 per cent of the area they develop is reclaimed from the sea. (There have been reports that due to global warming several low lying islands in the Maldives would go underwater by 2050.)

Whenever India raises questions on the growing Chinese presence, the Chinese government is quick to respond saying that it assures to keep the Indian Ocean demilitarised zone. However, it has been seen in Sri Lanka as well as Pakistan that China initially expands by investing in infrastructure in a foreign country and later strengthens its military might.

Maldives has always known as a country that raises its voice of the ill effects of climate change now wants to transform itself into becoming a major force in the Indian Ocean and transform into a trade hub and an important trade and transit port.

Maldives being a small country with just a population of 4 to 5 lakhs with the majority of the population living in Male the capital, the clout it would have to stop big powers from marching ahead with their hidden agenda is a question that is on everyone’s mind. More so India’s.