A number of bureaucrats in New Delhi have done away with their beacons or red lights on their official vehicles. The reason: every person arrested or hauled up for any sort of corruption-related activity—including the babu involved in the NALCO scandal—has been found in or around a car with a beacon or red light
"Music in the Park" is a come-as-you-are event, held in the mosquito-free environs of Nehru Park, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, entry and parking free. No tickets, passes, nothing.
Everybody sits together, unobtrusive security, and great music. Today it is Bombay Jayshree followed by Pandit Debu Choudhari as I type this, in the dark, by the light of the LCD monitor. And great music.
Out there in the VIP parking lot, are a large number of Delhi's finest drivers of various white Ambassador cars. Lounging around, some have made it to the open space at the back of the concert area, while others lounge around smoking bidis and playing cards. But there is a big difference today.
Barring one car, which is obviously from the Fire Department, not a single sarkari car has a red light or beacon. Yes, the fire engine, police patrol cars, ambulance and garbage disposal trucks have their beacons, so does the truck which is linked to the portable toilets.
But a large number of babus, at least the sort who have come to listen to Bombay Jayshree and Debu Choudhari, have apparently dispensed with their red lights and flashing beacons.
The marks where once stood the symbol of whatever on white, are now visible, like tan lines.
Once inside, I spot a friend from the tribe otherwise known as "civil servant", senior enough to have the organisers hovering around.
Spotting me, he joins us in the back, where the bad boys are hanging around smoking when they should not be doing so. Lighting up, I ask him about this latest phenomenon, this rapid removal of red lights and beacons from sarkari cars...
Background: Satyendra Garg, bossman of the Delhi Traffic Police and a legendary cop in his own right, has been trying hard for months now to bring some discipline into drivers who inhabit the vast wild jungle that that is Delhi's roads. One of the wildest creatures here is the laal battee vaallee gaadee. So wild that even the President, Prime Minister and Home Minister do not choose to have a red light on their official cars.
So what has all this got to do personal finance, then?
Just this-every person arrested or hauled up for any sort of scam, bribe, corruption-related activity or similar, just name them, has been found in or around a car with a beacon or red light.
The latest being the chairman of NALCO and his wife-they did even better, by using their red light beacon equipped car to enter the high security environs of the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) Building on Shah Jahan Road, with its four-layer security.
And despite all this paraphernalia, the CBI still caught them red-beaconed, so to say. So, rapidly coming off on a babu gaadee near you somewhere, are a whole lot of red beacons.
Still, the mood is upbeat, with that variety of government babus who were straightforward in the first instance, the sort who would come to a music programme like this in their own personal cars. And if there is one symbol that some sort of change is in the offing, then it is in the vast reduction in the number of siren-hooting red beacon flashing cars speeding past.
After all, nobody wants to attract the attention of the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), do they? Least of all those driving around with kilos of gold or suitcases full of money.
Note: The UPSC Building in Delhi is where pretty much every civil servant started her or his career. The security there is impressive indeed. For anybody to be stupid enough to walk into the UPSC branch of the Bank of Maharashtra within, and expect not to be caught, is a living example of how easy it is to make money if you had a red light on your car.