The Maharashtra government’s new order could ruffle a few more feathers. The state government has issued an order making Marathi mandatory for those seeking permit to ride an auto-rickshaw in Maharashtra. State transport minister Diwakar Raote said that one lakh new auto permits for Mumbai Metropolitan Region have been announced but added that these permits would be given only to Marathi-speaking applicants. The Hindustan Times report quoted Raote as saying, “New permits will be issued by November and applicants must submit domicile certificate and should know Marathi language. Those who don’t know Marathi language will not get the permits.”
Raote added that the applicant should submit a domicile certificate as a proof that he or she has been a resident of the state for the past 15 years. The rule, that a permit-holder should know the local language has always been in place but never before was it imposed. According to the report in HT, Raote, a senior Shiv Sena leader, is known for insisting on using Marathi for official purpose.
The move by the state government is sure to kick the hornet’s nest as Maharashtra houses millions of migrant workers. By putting down these pre-requisites, the state government has almost ensured that migrants from other parts of India, who want to work in the state, also learn Marathi. According to India TV, after the BJP came to power in Maharashtra last year, the Devendra Fadnavis government conducted a survey and found that around 70 per cent of auto drivers in the state are non-Marathis. A few members of the Opposition party called the move politically motivated as the civic body elections are round the corner. Sanjay Nirupam, Mumbai Congress chief, said, “We condemn it and demand that such policy should be withdrawn as early as possible. We will not tolerate such divisive politics on language, caste and creed.”