In a politically driven move to woo the Marathi manoos, the state’s Congress-NCP government has decided from now on, those who want to own and drive cabs in Mumbai must necessarily have lived in Maharashtra for at least 15 years and should be fluent in Marathi.
The decision is seen as an attempt to counter the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s increasing popularity with the young, middle-class Maharashtrian, which helped it win 14 seats in the Assembly elections.
The MNS is now perceived as a major threat in the civic polls scheduled for early 2012.
Of the 56,000 cabs in the city, at least 24,000 taxi permits need to be renewed. These new permits will be given only to those who can speak as well as write Marathi, as per the transport department proposal, cleared by the government.
A majority of taxi owners and drivers in the city are from north India, and this move will affect newer migrants.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said the government is only adhering to the domicile policy. “It is not a question of Marathi agenda. There is provision in the Motor Vehicles Act that those running public transport should be able to speak the local language.”
“In any state, preference is given to locals. What’s wrong?” asked Transport Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
Government officials said the decision will not affect those who already have permits.
The Mumbai Taximen’s Union said the decision was discriminatory. “Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city and this decision goes against its culture,” said union secretary A L Quadros.