Stung by the Maharashtra government’s decision to make knowledge of the Marathi language and a minimum 15-year stay in the state mandatory for issuance of licences to taxi drivers, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday sought immediate intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the matter.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Nitish voiced his deep concern over the issue. “The move is an attempt to break the unity and integrity of the country,” he said.
Kumar requested the PM to take this problem ‘head-on’ with the Maharashtra government and ensure that the decision is rescinded at once so that the divisive forces ‘do not rear their heads’.
“The Government of India should do well to send an advisory to the Maharashtra government accordingly,” he said.
Nearly 50 per cent of the cab drivers in Maharashtra are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“This decision, which effectively debars people from other states is not only against our federal structure but also against the Constitution. It creates barriers to free migration within the country,” said Kumar in his letter.
Kumar apprehended that the decision would have serious repercussions and reminded the PM that in the
past also he had written similar letters to him and the home minister when Maharatshtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists had targeted students, labourers and migrants from north India.
“Now the Congress-NCP government has made it official by deciding that taxi drivers could get permits only if they have lived in Mumbai for at least 15 years and are fluent in Marathi. This is a dangerous trend and the decision should be revoked forthwith,” Kumar said.
“Mumbai is the financial capital of the country and India is a union of states and there is only one nationality. Hence every Indian has the right to go anywhere in the country, settle, work and do business of his choice in any part of India peacefully,” Kumar said and added that it is but natural to learn the local language of the place where one works.
Kumar was joined by the his cabinet colleague and PHED Minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey in condemning the Maharashtra government’s decision, who said the Congress was trying to divide the country.
Lalu reacts to Maharashtra decision
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) strongman Lalu Prasad hit back strongly at the Congress, claiming that it was “going the way of Raj Thackeray”. Reacting sharply to a Maharashtra Government decision prohibiting North Indians, especially those from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, from getting cab licenses, Prasad said, “The Congress regime in Maharashtra has shown itself for what it is. It is authoritarian, regional and parochial.”
He said the diktat that only such people who were domiciled in Mumbai or the state and had maintained residence for at least 15 years would get licences to ply cabs in the state was meant solely to curb the hard working people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had become obvious. This was being done with the sole objective of harassing them.
Prasad also hauled up Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit and BJP national president Nitin Gadkari for their earlier “hate speeches" against migrants from the two Hindi-speaking states.