A day after the Maharashtra government took the decision to make knowledge of Marathi compulsory for those seeking taxi permits, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan changed tack on Thursday, saying permits will be given to those who knew “local languages.” He reportedly said the local languages could be “Hindi, Marathi or Gujarati.”
On Wednesday, the Cabinet decided that licence for taxis would be given to those residing in Maharashtra for 15 years, who could “read, write and speak Marathi.” The decision has drawn flak from taxi associations, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Soon after Mr. Chavan’s statement on Thursday, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray issued a threat that the 4,000 licences be given only to Marathi youths, failing which his party would “not allow taxis to ply.” “How can the Chief Minister change a Cabinet decision? Maharashtra is not a “dharmashala” [rest house] for north Indians,” he said.
Mr. Chavan said the decision was based on the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles Rules 1989, which stipulated domicile and knowledge of local language for taxi drivers.