Shiv Sena defends Marathi mandatory clause for auto-drivers
Shiv Sena has defended Transport-Minister Diwakar Raote's mandatory clause for auto-drivers to speak Marathi by stating that it was an old rule which he had sought to implement. "What is wrong in saying that it is essential that auto and taxi drivers here know Marathi. There is a one-sided criticism of Raote for the decision," Shiv-Sena stated in an editorial in their newspaper, "Samaana"
In 1997, the then government of Maharashtra had stopped issuing fresh auto-permits. However, with the growing population in the past 15 years, the government felt the need to issue new auto-permits to release pressure from the existing auto-drivers. There exists an old rule in The Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Rules 1989 which indicates that drivers involved in public-service should be conversant in Marathi language.
In 2014, the then Congress-led government declared that new taxi-licenses would be given on the conditionality of being conversant in Marathi and a minimum domicile of 15 years in the locality. Then CM was heavily criticized by BJP leader Shushil Kumar Modi, calling the move a conspiracy against the "hindi-speaking" population of Maharashtra. Congress defended themselves by stating that the cabinet had obeyed rules.
BJP-led Maharashtra's Transport-Minister, Diwakar Raote announced that the government will issue 1 lakh new auto-permits in the Mumbai-Metropolitan region during Diwali. However, the conditions for new applicants were that they should speak Marathi and should be residents of their respective localities for atleast 15 years. The government will also renew the licenses of 1.40 lakh autos which have been running illegally on same conditions.
A Shiv-Sena member Diwakar Raote, defended the case by saying "It is necessary for any auto driver in Maharashtra to know Marathi and to know it very well. How else can he communicate with passengers?"
Congress and NCP leaders slammed back stating that BJP and Shiv-Sena were raking up the "sons-of-soil" sentiments for upcoming Mumbai civic-elections scheduled in 2017. Congress stated that people from all faiths reside in Mumbai and the maximum the government could do was to ensure that auto-drivers knew the topography of the city. NCP criticized the move by calling the BJP-led government an "extremist" one.
Thampi Kurien, the general-secretary of Mumbai Rickshaw Men Union has expressed no objection to the rule stating that it is an old rule under the Motor Vehicles Act which has existed for a long time.
Shiv-Sena has lashed at opposition parties by drawing link to the upcoming Bihar Assembly polls by stating, "those who have sidelined development and are harping on the auto permits issue are responsible for making Bihar a backward state."