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The thriving VIP culture of India: A fallout of the colonial mindset
In India, almost everybody tries to be a VIP. From bribing cops to using family connections, we try it all. When Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan expressed his dissent after being grilled at a US airport, he became symbolic of a larger Indian malaise – the VIP culture. But the moot question is, does this exist in any other country?

Well, not really. VIP culture in totality is an Indian phenomenon which is a fallout of the colonial mindset and also frivolous in nature. In western countries things are completely different, where people believe more in sticking to rules. India's boorish VIP culture is in fact a hindrance to the country's security and equality.

It's a common sight in India to see gun brandishing security personnel, asking people to move their vehicles aside to make way for the beacon fitted white Ambassador car that the VIP travels in. People here might not allow an ambulance stuck in traffic to pass through but do have to move aside to pave way for the VIP (very important person). Getting roads blocked for getting priority passage has become synonymous with VIP status symbol and unlimited powers in the country.

In our country VIP culture is omnipresent. In fact, over the subsequent years after India's Independence, the list of VIPs has further bloated, with new categories being added to the list year after year.

As per available figures, India has the largest number of VIPs numbering a whopping 5,79,092. In a sharp contrast, UK only has 84 VIPs. Next on the list after India is China with just 435 VIPs. The number of VIPs in other countries are as follows: France (109), Japan (125), Germany (142), Australia (205), USA (252), South Korea (282) and Russia (312). (Source:

The reason why we have so many VIPs in India is not something which is difficult to understand. In our country, the President; Vice-President; governors of states; various Speakers (of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha and Assemblies); MPs; MLCs; Corporators; IAS; IPS; ICS; IRS officers; Talum/Gram Panchayat members; leaders of political parties; Chief Justice; judges of Supreme Court and High Courts; media barons and Editors are all part of this elite brigade, called the VVIPs and VIPs. Even Bollywood stars are not behind in this rat race and expect exemptions and immunity from international authorities while travelling abroad.

The race of privileges is on in our country with senior bureaucrats, high ranking police and military officials, all competing to surge ahead by flashing red lights and blowing high-pitched sirens. More worrisome is the burden that this league of extraordinary gentlemen/women exerts on the state's exchequer. If we look at the police-to-population ratio of India, there is just 1 policeman for 761 common citizens. On the other hand, 3 police personnel are engaged in protecting every Indian VIP. (Source: Bureau of Police Research and Development, 2012.)

Interestingly, on February 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of India took up this issue which has been bothering the public for years. The apex court came down heavily on the thriving VIP culture in India while hearing a petition filed by senior counsel Harish Salve that gave details of misuse of government machinery in blocking roads to give priority passage to VIPs, "flashing of red lights" atop their cars and blowing loud sirens to intimidate the public. The bench remarked that "the threat perception becomes a symbol of power" and asked the government to furnish details of such arrangements and the expenditure incurred.

Shocking incidents keep emerging about how shabby treatment is meted out to ordinary citizens for extending special treatment to VIPs. In June, 2015, Air India had allegedly offloaded three passengers to accommodate Union minister Kiren Rijiju and Deputy CM of J&K Nirmal Singh. What a raw deal?

In the aftermath of the Nirbahya gang-rape in Delhi, the first knee-jerk reaction of politicians was to beef up the security of women MPs rather than thinking about the security of ordinary women. It is ironical to think that those we elect deny us access to themselves in the name of security cover. Never would you ever come across a chief minister of a state taking public transportation (Mr Arvind Kejriwal once did travel in the Delhi Metro in an isolated incident that I can think of). Contrastingly, in a developed democracy like Canada, the newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to greet and thank common people at a Montreal subway station after winning the election.

Gone are the days of colonial, feudal or totalitarian regimes in India. Today India is the largest democracy in the world where rule of law applies to all citizens equally. So no public servant including the Prime Minister can be above the law. Perhaps the time has come to raise awareness and cut this flab and bring an end to this VIP culture.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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