A day after taking a pro-Marathi, anti-migrant stand, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was forced to eat his own words.
On Thursday, Maharashtra’s Congress-NCP government said it was fine if taxi drivers could speak any of the
commonly spoken local languages — like Marathi, Hindi or Gujarati.
The clarification, made by a visibly upset Chavan, came a day after the state Cabinet okayed a proposal that taxi permits would be given only to those who know Marathi. Though no one was willing to say it on record, the central leadership’s unhappiness is said to be the reason for Chavan’s about-turn.
“We took a decision as per the Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Rules. The local languages spoken commonly could be Marathi, Hindi or Gujarati. Any driver should be able to understand the language spoken by the passengers,” Chavan said, clarifying that the Cabinet did not make any changes to this regulation, which has been in place since 1989.
But even the Congress backtracked, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena got into the act and warning the government against changing its stance.
“I will not allow a single taxi to ply on Mumbai’s roads if the permits are not given to Maharashtrians,” MNS chief Raj Thackeray said on Thursday, making the most of an opportunity the state Congress handed to him on a platter.
“This chief minister does not have pride, and bows to the dictates from Delhi.”
The anti-migrant move had been read as a political ploy to score over parties like the MNS, which that did very well in the recent state polls with its hardline Marathi agenda.
The Shiv Sena-BJP Opposition backed Raj, criticising Chavan for doing a u-turn.
AL Quadros, general secretary of the Mumbai Taxi Union, said they would not move court as the government has not changed the old rules.