Minister’s privilege, citizens’ suffering

Driving through Bengaluru’s chaotic traffic is a nightmare and the insistence of political heavy weights that their vehicles be given precedence over others by creating zero traffic or signal-free corridors has only made matters worse. Initially, only two dignitaries in Karnataka, the governor and the chief minister were entitled to a convoy, until SM Krishna became the first deputy chief minister of the state in 1992 and was provided with one. Thereafter, it has been a free-for-all. Today, a few ministers, former chief ministers, opposition leaders and even heads of religious mutts move around in convoys, creating traffic snarls wherever they go.

The governor, chief minister, home minister and certain VIPs from the Centre are entitled to zero traffic corridors, where the road is cleared of all vehicles to facilitate their free movement. Historically, home ministers have shunned this privilege for fear of incurring the wrath of the already harassed commuters of the city, but G Parameshwara does not seem to have any such qualms. Even after he resigned as home minister in the Siddaramaiah government to devote full time to his role as KPCC president, he continued to use the official convoy, complete with its blaring siren, though he was not entitled to. In the new government headed by HD Kumaraswamy, Parameshwara was elevated to the post of deputy chief minister with the home portfolio, which was taken away from him during the recent cabinet expansion. While the new Home Minister MB Patil has categorically refused to avail of the zero traffic privilege, Parameshwara seems to be in no mood to relent, though he no longer holds the portfolio. While the deputy CM’s movement within the city throws traffic out of gear causing huge jams, his travel to his home town Tumakuru can be a traumatic experience for others as the busy stretch through Yeshwantpur and the flyover leading to two national highways are sanitised. Despite the daily complaints about the inconvenience caused to the public, the VIP has been completely insensitive and rather brazen in his reaction that he is entitled to this privilege as a senior government minister.

Sometime ago, following a nudge from the Supreme Court, the Centre had banned the use of beacon lamps atop vehicles. A similar decision should be taken with regard to use of convoys, security apparatus and zero traffic corridors, which should be strictly restricted to a handful of constitutional offices, and not doled out to satisfy the ego of politicians. It is high time that politicians understood that they are servants, not the masters, of the people.

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