More than four thousand taxi permits are given to the taxi drivers each year in Mumbai, Maharashtra and other neighboring cities. The Motor Vehicle Rules framed in 1989, which say cab drivers should know any local language like Marathi, Hindi or Gujarati and should be domiciled in the state of Maharashtra for 15 years. According to Maharashtra Congress party, the cabinet has not changed the rules. As such, a person seeking a permit must know Marathi and any one of the local languages.
Thousands of migrants come to Mumbai each year from various places such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bangladesh and other cities. All of them are not learning Marathi and many of them are taking up the driving jobs. To understand the problem more comprehensively, the following facts in Mumbai are useful.
1. People living in Maharashtra for more than 15 years and cannot communicate in Marathi. Many of these people maintain that it is not necessary to learn the local language. Some of them show contempt towards the local language in one way or the other.
2. Marathi schools are being closed down by the government due to decreased number of students. Any attempt to make the local language compulsory is met with resistance by non locals. [Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has closed down 37 Marathi schools in the city. The city also saw a drop of over 70,000 students in the last five years with more children being inclined towards English medium schools for better career prospects. In the year, 2004-05 there were 450 Marathi medium schools with 1,77,538 students while in the year 2009-10, there are 413 schools with 1,07,413 students.]
3. Unemployment is increasing: Employed non locals, in many instances, create groups among the workplace and are more active in helping their friends and relatives. Some of them maintain that the locals are not hardworking, not talented or not skilled as reasons for unemployment among the locals.
Recently, the Maharashtra cabinet decided to grant 24,000 taxi permits, which have not been renewed since 2002, to companies which would operate fleet taxi services. In the meeting, a senior Congress minister and NCB ministers had specifically demanded that the new permits should be given only to Marathi-speaking persons. From one point of view, this was intended to ensure strict implementation of existing provisions.
City Congress chief Kripashankar Singh, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, and other north Indian leaders of the Congress had put pressure on Chavan to reverse the decision. With the civic elections around the corner, the Congress did not want to alienate non-Marathi voters who are in a majority in the metropolis. A senior Congress leader confirmed that following the strong protests lodged by the chief ministers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and former railway minister Lalu Prasad, the Congress high command sought an explanation from Chavan and asked him to maintain status quo instead of taking hasty decisions.
Shiv Sena and the MNS have always championed the cause of the Marathi people. Their stance is more consistent among all the political parties in Maharashtra with respect to local interests. In the past, they have symbolically taken up protests like blackening of English signboards across the city. Now they have displayed hoardings in the city asking the North Indian drivers to learn the language in 40 days. After the reversal of the decision, spokesperson for the Sena Neelam Gorhe said the CM had succumbed to pressure from the Hindi lobby.
While all Indian languages are struggling to face the onslaught of the English, linguistic minorities are taking easy options and thereby complicating the situation. Parties and organizations are reacting with partial understanding of the problem, addressing specific aspects of the issue.
Baba Ramdev thinks that local people should get preference in jobs in their respective states, but not at the cost of peace. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi said there were no takers for the slogan Mumbai for Marathis even in Maharashtra itself. Mohan Bhagwat, RSS chief, highlighted unity of India saying that all Indians were children of Bharat Mata, and every inch of India belonged to all patriotic Indians, irrespective of region, religion and language. Swamy congratulated RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on showing true statesmanship and Hindutva for his statement. Nitin Gadkari, BJP president, questioned Shiv Sena's commitment towards its demand to repeal article 370 in Kashmir.
While Sangh Parivar has tactfully brought Kashmir issue and unity of India into the discussion, it did not admit the problem created by linguistic minorities or the problem faced by Marathi people. It may be easy to target political parties like Sena and MNS and blame them for the problem. But two steps are to be supported by all who would like to retain Indian culture.
1. A set of guidelines for linguistic minorities
2. Government policies to strengthen the Indian languages (local languages) against the onslaught of English.
Guideline should advice non locals to respect local language. Practically it means, interest and willingness to learn local language at least to a minimum extent. Linguistic minorities should learn to avoid creating resentment among linguistic majority by mingling harmoniously.
Government should adopt firm, consistent policies to promote and strengthen Indian languages. English usage need not be discontinued or discouraged. But, We should always remember that a part of Indian identity is embedded in our native languages and in Sanskrit.
[Contributed by mksri and SS]
After following these two steps, remnants of the regional intolerance, if any, could be suppressed effectively by legal means.