Lindsay Pereira: No beacon of hope in politics

Their flashing red lights on cars may have disappeared, but the sense of entitlement held by our MPs will take a long time to go away

The thing we fail to realise is that red beacons are extremely important because they keep the inflated egos of our MPs in check. File pic
The thing we fail to realise is that red beacons are extremely important because they keep the inflated egos of our MPs in check. File pic

It's been two months since those red beacons were supposedly banned by the central government in order to stop making MPs feel like they were special. A large number of them hated the idea, obviously, because everyone knows that MPs in India believe they are special, and deserve to be treated with reverence. This is probably why so many of them have resorted to other means to get this message out to the rest of us.

In Gujarat, for instance, a couple of ministers were found to have replaced their beacons with loud hooters announcing the arrival of their motorcades. These vehicles continue to halt traffic so the esteemed MPs wouldn't have to waste time at traffic lights like the rest of us lesser mortals, who have all the time in the world because we have nothing important to do.

In West Bengal, an MP was caught using the beacon, but was promptly defended by his Chief Minister, who cited the additional expense of fuel and escort members made necessary by the absence of the beacon. In Jammu, a car with a red beacon ran over a boy, crushing him to death. It didn't even stop to help. Other MPs, speaking to the press, pointed out that there was no ban on sirens and asked the question, 'How will we clear the crowds if we don't have sirens?'

Maybe we should replace red beacons with something a little more pronounced, like a cavalry or float, complete with dancers, magicians and cannon shooting tinsel on the streets before the arrival of every MP. Roads should be cleared, trees felled to provide unobstructed views of hoardings proclaiming their imminent arrival, while schools and colleges should be given a day off so students can stand on either side of every street and bow in respect.

The thing we fail to realise is that red beacons are extremely important because they keep the inflated egos of our MPs in check, reassuring them that all those years they spent skipping school weren't wasted, and that they will always have unlimited freebies, a salary for doing nothing, and a heavily subsidised meal paid for by taxpayers at the Parliament canteen.

Without this reassurance, it's easy to see why so many of them lose control, screaming like infants until they are made to feel special again. It's why Ravindra Gaikwad did what he did on Air India a few months ago, and why an MP, JC Diwakar Reddy, allegedly reported 28 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of his flight from Visakhapatnam to Hyderabad, raged against airline staff when denied a boarding pass, and held up the flight until he was allowed to board.

Interestingly, media reports earlier this week covered a house committee of MPs that came up with a few recommendations. Apparently, they want parliamentarians to be given preference in private airlines, an auto upgrade to business class and better menus onboard, as well as personal briefings by customs officials on what they can carry duty-free from foreign tours. They also want front row seats to be offered to MPs so they can leave aircrafts early, because they are in a rush and need to leave faster. It's interesting how none of the MPs we have ever been blessed with can be referred to as fast when it comes to doing something genuinely important for the betterment of their fellow citizens.

It's not hard to understand where this sense of entitlement comes from. We have a long tradition of placing people on pedestals for no apparent reason. Our MPs are supposed to be public servants, but somehow come to think of themselves as divine beings, because of the obsequious behaviour they are surrounded by from the minute they win an election. This becomes worse in rural India, where illiteracy and a crushing sense of helplessness compel millions of Indians to treat their elected representatives as demigods, in the hope that they will alleviate the misery of their daily lives in some minor fashion.

The red beacons may be back at some point, because rules don't apply to delusional folk. Even if they aren't though, it may take years for our MPs to understand why they occupy the positions they do, and how the common man perceives them. They need to understand that a country has to aspire towards becoming a place where each of its citizens feels special, not just a few who have been tasked with the job of making this happen.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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