Under fire for his government’s decision to give licenses only to those taxi drivers who know Marathi, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan today backtracked, saying cab drivers should know any local language, including Hindi and Gujarati. In a Raj Thackeray-type move, the Congress-NCP government had decided to give new taxi licenses to only those persons who are well versed in Marathi, and have resided in the state for at least 15 years. The government had, however, clarified that existing taxi drivers, who hold a valid license, would not be affected by the decision. Taxi drivers can get a taxi permit if they know how to speak the local language such as Marathi and Gujarati. Taximen association in Mumbai had condemned the decision saying it was unacceptable and politically motivated. A sizeable section of over two lakh taxi drivers in Mumbai comprise migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand. About 4,000 new taxi permits are given each year. The government’s move is being seen as an attempt to woo the youth in the run-up to the civic polls and counter the MNS. However, Congress sought to downplay the controversy, saying the move was simply reinforcing an old provision in the Motor Vehicles Rule.
October 23, 2014