Working knowledge of Marathi is okay for new taxi permits

Rattled by the adverse reaction to its edict that taxi drivers must know Marathi, the state government Thursday made a U-turn on the issue and clarified that a working knowledge of any other commonly spoken language would suffice for getting a taxi permit.

Under the Mahashtra Motor Vehicles Act (MVA), 1989, rule 4(2) stipulated that a domicile of minimum 15 years and under rule 24(1), topographical knowledge of the area of operation and working knowledge of Marathi and any one of the languages commonly spoken were essential, a statement said.        

Accordingly, "no change" in these existing provisions was effected by the state cabinet Wednesday, it added.        

The government shift came barely a day after the cabinet decided that only persons domiciled in the state and with ability to read, write, and speak Marathi would be eligible to get taxi permits – creating a furore.        

Attacking the government’s u-turn on the issue, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray demanded that only Marathis must be given the taxi permits, warning thta if non-Maharashtrians were given taxi permits, his party would not permit their cabs to ply on the roads.        

The cabinet decision also evoked opposition from taxi drivers’ unions.        

The Mumbai Taximen’s Union (MTU) said it would move the Bombay High Court to challenge the government’s move and was consulting lawyers.        

Castigating the decision as "undemocratic and discriminating", MTU general secretary A.L. Quadros warned that the union would challenge it in court.        

He also indicated that the taximen could resort to mass agitations like shutting down taxi services in the city.         

City Taxi Union head Mushtaque Qureshi, however, has appealed to the government to give taxi drivers sufficient time to learn Marathi.         

In Thursday’s statement, the government added it will grant 26,000 taxi permits which have not been renewed since 2002 to companies which would operate fleet taxi services.        

At the same time, the government would grant an opportunity to the old permit holders to renew these permits by March 31, 2010, and then, these would be issued to the fleet operators who would bring brand new CNG (gas) taxis with all modern facilities to attract more people to comfortable public transport instead of private vehicles.        

The government is also engaged in talks with the existing taxi owners to facilitate modernisation and upgradation or replacing their vehicles, the statement added.        

–Indo-Asian News Service        

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