MLAs riled up over ‘lal batis’ to Guv, others

Jammu: Legislative  Assembly Tuesday erupted in pandemonium as members held  protests over the approval of use of red beacons for public servants while they were denied the privilege, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House.
The state cabinet yesterday approved the use of red beacons to the Governor, Chief Minister, Chief Justice, Chief Secretary, DGP and other dignitaries of the state.
Members of BJP, PDP, JKNPP and JSM rose in protest when the House opened for session today, saying the privilege was denied to them, who held constitutional posts.
Speaker Mubarak Gul said the cabinet decision was in line with the Supreme Court order last year which limited the use of red beacons to high dignitaries holding constitutional posts.
Amid vociferous protests, the members sought a response from government in the House. But when they got no reply from the government, they staged a walkout.
Later, Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather said the decision was taken as it was mandatory to implement the SC order within a stipulated period.
When asked how Chief Secretary and DGP were included in the list, Rather said that the Government of India  had approved the use of red beacons to the Cabinet Secretary while MPs and MLAs have not been enlisted for the same.
The issue was raised again by Congress and PDP members resulting in pandemonium in the House forcing the Speaker to adjourn it briefly.
“National Conference always adopted a double standard over all issues,” leader of opposition Mehbooba Mufti said, adding that while Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweets about removing red beacons from his vehicle, cabinet committee chaired by him okays the ‘lal bati’ (red beacon) culture in the state.
“We are dead against the ‘lal bati’ culture. When the Supreme Court gave this decision, I was the one who immediately removed the beacon light from my car. It is not a matter of me or you; there is a lot of anger about this discrimination among the people of the country,” she said.
“As politicians and legislators, we should respect the sentiments and feelings of the people of the country over the issue. We should voluntarily give it up,” she said.
Defending the Chief Minister, MLC Devender Singh Rana said that Omar was the first to remove the beacon from his vehicle and he had not used it on his vehicle till today.
“He ensured that red beacons are removed from his entire official cavalcade and the yesterday’s cabinet decision is in line with the Supreme Court judgement,” he said.
Criticising the cabinet decision, JKNPP leader Harshdev Singh said the prestige of the legislators has been lowered by the decision in which Chief Secretary and DGP have been put above legislators.
Congress member G M Saroori also expressed reservations over issue and asked how legislators were denied their right when public servants have been given permission.
The issue was raised for the second time by Saroori and PDP member Zulfikar Ali.
Intervening in the matter, the Speaker said the cabinet decision was in line with the Supreme Court order and said MLAs should contest the cabinet decision in a court of law.