Maharashtra CM Does U-Turn, Says Taxi Permits To Those Knowing Local Languages
Under fire for his government's decision to give licenses only to those taxi drivers who know Marathi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Thursday backtracked, saying cab drivers should know any local language including Hindi and Gujarati.
In a Raj Thackeray-type move, the Congress-NCP government yesterday decided to give new taxi licenses to only those persons who are well versed in Marathi and have resided in the state for at least 15 years.
The government had, however, clarified that existing taxi drivers, who hold a valid license, would not be affected by the decision.
Chavan said, "Cabinet has gone by the Maharashtra Motor vehicles rules which were framed in 1989. As per that rule, for a person to have a permit, 15 years of domicile is compulsory. And the second rule says that for a taxi badge for a driver, working knowledge of local language is necessary. The local language can be Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati..it can include anything...the knowledge of the local language is necessary."
Taxi drivers can get a taxi permit if they know how to speak the local language such as Marathi, Gujarati, he said.
The Bombay Taximen's association, the oldest in the city, had condemned the decision with its secretary A L Quadros saying it was unacceptable and politically motivated.
A sizeable section of over two lakh taxi drivers in Mumbai comprise migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand. About 4,000 new taxi permits are given each year.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray had been in the forefront of an anti-migrant campaign in the state last year and had come in for severe criticism from several political parties.
The government's move is being seen as an attempt to woo the youth in the run up to the civic polls and counter the MNS.
Terming the decision as "unconstitutional", RJD Chief Lalu Prasad asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that it is revoked.
However, Congress sought to downplay the controversy, saying the move was simply reinforcing an old provision in the Motor Vehicles Rule.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's latest remark that taxi permits would be given to those knowing any local language including Hindi and Gujarati, has evoked sharp reactions from Shiv Sena and MNS. "The chief minister should be firm on his stance," MNS chief Raj Thackeray said.The government had, however, clarified that existing taxi drivers, who hold a valid license, would not be affected by the decision.
Chavan said, "Cabinet has gone by the Maharashtra Motor vehicles rules which were framed in 1989. As per that rule, for a person to have a permit, 15 years of domicile is compulsory. And the second rule says that for a taxi badge for a driver, working knowledge of local language is necessary."
"How can Chavan change the collective decision of the cabinet," Raj told reporters. Terming Chavan's 'about turn' as a sign of 'lachari' (haplessness), Raj said, "the chief minister does not have the capability of abiding by the cabinet decision." "All states take such measures for benefit of their people," the MNS chief said.
If the government does not give permits to Marathi people for the 4000 new taxis, MNS party will not allow these taxis to move on the road, he said, adding, "those who want to treat this as threat can do so."
Targeting Chavan for climbing down from the cabinet decision, Raj said, "he (Chavan) did not become CM on his own merit but was put into the chair. He always thinks, what will Madam (Sonia Gandhi) say".
"He should do a part-time job in the home of a Chief Minister of southern state, only then will he know what is self-respect," the MNS chief said.
Raj also demanded that the government check earlier taxi permits. "Do these drivers know the local areas... where is Pune, Mumbai and Nashik? They need to ask passengers about location," he said. Condemning the Chief Minister for the 'climbdown' on the cabinet decision, Shiv Sena said Chavan had devalued the CM's post.
"By making the latest remarks, Chavan has shown that he is under pressure," a Sena leader said.
Sena had yesterday welcomed the Maharashtra cabinet's decision to give new taxi permits to only those persons who are well-versed in Marathi and have resided in the state for at least 15 years.
"We welcome the decision. In fact, the Sena had made the demand in the last session of state Legislature," senior Sena leader Subhash Desai had told PTI. PTI