Making the use of Marathi compulsory does not serve any purpose if the people are inclined to use another language, Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari, former judge of the Bombay High Court, said in a discussion on the necessity to make Marathi compulsory in the State here on Sunday.

The discussion was organised as part of the 83rd All-India Marathi Literary Meet in Pune, with representatives of all major political parties participating.

“In our State, there are a great number of laws and minimum implementation of them,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

He emphasised the need for the people themselves to nurture the language, its literature and culture at a personal level.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he said: “He who cannot speak his mother-tongue or take pride in it is not a true patriot in my opinion.”

The 83-year-old also read out a Hindi couplet in keeping with the flavour of the literary meet.

Ek khata hum umr bhar karte rahe /Dhul chehre par thi aur hum aaina saaf karte rahe [All my life, I made the mistake of cleaning the mirror when the dust was on my face],” Justice Dharmadhikari said, implying that the political class was trying to find the solution to the question of promoting Marathi in the wrong place.

‘Urbanisation process'

State finance minister Sunil Tatkare, present as a representative of the ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), maintained that the government had done its bit to implement laws to promote Marathi.

“We in the Mantralaya converse with the IAS and IPS officers in Marathi even if they are from other States,” he said.

“When a State develops, more and more the Central government agencies and multi-national companies are set up, and languages other than the State language begin to be used. It is a part of the process of urbanisation and globalisation,” Mr. Tatkare said.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vinod Tawde said that until the 16th century, French and Latin prevailed in England.

But the people consciously switched over to English, and the compilation of the Oxford dictionary enriched the language and made it more accessible.

“On the other hand,” he said, “there have been no additions to the Marathi dictionary since 1988. There is also not adequate translation of Marathi literary works into other languages that may help them win a Jnanpith award or a Nobel,” he said.

Mr. Tawde said the government ought to remove the tax exemption granted to the Indian Premier League and use the money to fund an academic institute for the promotion of Marathi literature on the lines of those existing in some southern States.

‘Afraid of Centre'

Shiv Sena leader and former Chief Minister Manohar Joshi said it was necessary to make the use of Marathi compulsory.

“The State government wants to implement laws but it is afraid of the Centre,” he said, referring to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's U-turn on the move to make the knowledge of Marathi mandatory for taxi drivers.

Mr. Joshi also took a dig at Mr. Chavan for dodging meeting actor Amitabh Bachchan at the literary meet because the Congress leadership directed him to do so.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Shirish Parkar said: “People from other States come to Maharashtra because of their need, not ours. It should be made imperative for them to learn Marathi.”

Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal of the NCP and State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshvardhan Patil of the Congress, who were scheduled to attend the discussion, gave it a miss.