We all witness halting of traffic when all grades of ministers, with red beacon lights on their cars and cavalcade of several vehicles, pass through the road. RTI reveals this is illegal! The RTI activist also raised the issue before the Human Rights Commission
Most urban cities have one more sore point for traffic besides vehicle congestion and that is halting of traffic whenever any VIP passes by, often with a cavalcade of vehicles behind him. The common commuter is stranded, sometime for a long time.
While all grades of ministers lavishly enjoy this VIP treatment on roads, Jammu-based noted Right to Information (RTI) activist Deepak Sharma has procured information under RTI, which comes as a pleasant surprise.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in reply to an RTI filed by Sharma revealed that the traffic on roads can be stopped only in the case of movement by the President of India, the Vice President of India, the Prime Minister of India and visiting foreign dignitaries who are given President/ PM level security cover.
Sharma said, “I have always been angry about closure of road traffic for the general public in order to facilitate easy and free movement of VIPs and their convoy. Even if there is a case of emergency, vehicles like ambulances also get stranded.’’
A couple of years back, a patient who was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance lost his life as traffic was stranded for PM Manmohan Singh.
In the reply to his RTI application, the MHA said, “…it may be stated that as per guidelines issued by MHA in consultation with Central Security Agencies, traffic is to be stopped only in the case of President of India, the Vice President of India, the Prime Minister of India and visiting foreign dignitaries who are given President’s/ PM level security cover so as to give them safe passage during movement by road. Further details in this regard are exempt under Section 24 (1) and 8 (1)(g) of the RTI Act 2005 and cannot b e disclosed.’’
However, the RTI reply makes it clear that there is a set of rules adopted by state governments for halting of traffic for VIPs smooth transit on road. The reply states: “Details with regard to the authority vested with the police for regulating traffic movement in connection with movement of dignitaries or otherwise, may pertain to the state governments, form where the information may be obtained directly. Information on the subject may also be available with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to whom a copy of your application is being transferred under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act 2005 to provide you the information that they may have.”
“Similarly, a copy of your application is also being transferred to Delhi Police for providing you information (in respect of Delhi Police) if any, they may have on the subject.’’
Interestingly, Sharma filed his RTI, online. Following are the details:
RTI to MHA by online mode vide Regn. No. MHOME/R/2014/60202.
For reply, Please check follow the link: https://rtionline.gov.in/request/status.php
Enter registration no. : HOME/R/2014/60202
Email id : [email protected]
1) Kindly provide the designations of all such VIPs etc. who are allowed to move freely on the roads by closing the traffic on roads for general public.
2) Kindly provide the clear and certified copy of the order/directive etc. issued by Department of Home or some other competent authority which allows/authorizes the Traffic police or any other such agency to close traffic for general public for ensuring the free and easy movement of VIPs etc on the roads.
3) Kindly mention under rules what legal action is taken against a person who refuses to stop or tries to pass through the road which is closed for traffic for the easy and free movement of the VIPs on the road. Kindly provide the relevant sections under law in this regard.
4) Kindly provide the clear and certified copy of the order/directive etc. which allows ambulances/patients etc. to pass through the road which is closed for traffic for general public for ensuring easy and free movement of VIPs etc on the roads.
Sharma termed the present practice followed by traffic police to close the traffic for allowing free movement to all VIPs as undemocratic and violation of fundamental right of the people to enjoy right to freedom of movement.
Sharma also approached the State Human Rights Commission of J&K, petitioning that the general public is facing lot of hardship and sufferings due to this practice. He wrote: “This act of traffic police costs lives at times particularly when patients need immediate treatment in hospitals. The stoppage of traffic for general public to give smooth passage to VIPs also hits the right to liberty and right to freedom of movement of the general public.’’
The petitioner also placed on record of Rights Panel, the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs to stop traffic to give passage during movement by road, only in case of president of India, the Vice President of India, the Prime Minister of India and visiting dignitaries who are given President/ PM level security cover.
Considering the averments made in the petition a case of Human Rights violation, the acting Chairperson of State Human Rights Commission, Rafiq Fida, issued notice to Divisional Commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu and IGP Traffic, J&K for filing their factual reports in the matter. It stated: “The Commission cannot lose sight of the facts prevailing in the state on account of security scenario, but traffic department needs to adopt measures to minimize the inconvenience of the public in general due to stoppage of traffic to give safe passage to VIPs not entitled for the same”.
The hearing is on 30 March 2014.
Urging readers to file RTI in your respective city or town regarding which strata of VIP at the local level is covered under such VIP rule.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)