tna January 21, 2010, 19:29 IST
Under attack for making knowledge of Marathi a must to get new taxi permits in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan today did a quick U-turn insisting that fluency in any local language like Hindi and Gujarati was also enough.
The turnaround by Chavan, who was earlier criticised by leaders of Hindi-speaking states for taking an "unconstitutional" step, however did not go well with Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray's MNS who said it showed the government's helpness and that it was an "insult" to Marathis.
The Congress-NCP government in a controversial Raj Thackeray-type move 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.
"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," Chavan told reporters.
"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," he added.
Taxi drivers can get a taxi permit if they know how to speak the local language such as Marathi, Gujarati, he said.
Raj Thackeray said Chavan's turnaround showed the government's 'lachari' (haplessness) and asked "Is Maharashtra an 'ashramshala' (charity home) for people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?"
Terming the decision dangerous, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar warned it was an 'attempt to break the unity and integrity of the country' was joined by RJD strongman Lalu Yadav in seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention to revoke the measure.