Recently the chief minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, told the media in a post-cabinet briefing that “a person applying for the badge of a taxi driver should be able to talk, read and write Marathi”. Taking cue from this, MNS activists took upon themselves the noble task of teaching the non-Marathi folk, the official language of the state, for which they were duly reprimanded by their own leaders. It got me thinking, how this seemingly anti-constitutional clause has been permitted by the government?
MNS would have us believe that Mumbai belongs only to Marathi manoos, but I sincerely beg to differ. The Constitution lays down that any Indian has a right to settle, work or travel in any part of the country. So when did any one community begin to own a city? We, as a nation, are part of a partly federal and partly unitary democratic government. The government is by the people and for the people of the country not just a handful bigoted politicians working only to fill their vote banks.
Mumbai is the financial capital of the country and hence holds utmost importance to the nation along with the state. It pays the maximum tax and yet receives a negligible benefit when it comes to public services, a responsibility of our government. Where were the MNS chiefs when Mumbai was drowning due to lack of a proper drainage system, or losing citizens in road accidents due to innumerable potholes?
One of the biggest controversies today is the manner in which the Mithi River has been choked by the proliferation of slums on its banks and creeping reclamation. The river has finally received the attention it deserves after it went on a rampage. The de-silting and restoration of the Mithi was part of the plan for the spanking new financial district called the Bandra-Kurla complex. While the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) raised several thousand crores by selling plots, but the money was systematically siphoned off by the state government to fund its cotton procurement schemes and subscription to irrigation bonds floated by State companies.
There are many such examples of sheer corruption. Time and again, Mumbai has been targeted by political parties at the time of elections. This hypocrisy is an insult to the intellect of the Indian citizens.
Raj Thackeray is still unfazed; he proposes that merely being able to read, write, and speak Marathi would not entitle anybody to get local jobs.
“For getting jobs in Mumbai, the applicant must be a Marathi by birth,” he said.
Mumbai currently faces many problems like overpopulation, water shortage, terror attacks and I would urge the government to improve their administrative functioning and come up with more efficient solutions to these problems than trying to blindly divide people on basis on caste, religion and now language. Must I remind them, the direction we were intended to go was towards progress, not backward to ignorance and intolerance. To divide the country for private gains is irresponsible and shameful on the part of all political parties. What we need is mutual respect for one another to live in harmony. I understand of course that too many vessels in a kitchen would make a lot of noise and we must all compromise a bit to avoid conflicts. I hope the helplessness of the people just above poverty line would not be used to satisfy such disgraceful needs of the people in power.
I am not prejudiced against the Maharashtrians, as this tactic is mainly aimed at the lower classes of society who amidst fear and insecurity are trying to salvage the jobs in their own state as Maharashtrians unlike most other communities residing in Mumbai are not prone to migrating. We need to ensure that the poor in Maharashtra are empowered enough to compete with everyone else or enable them to understand that there are multiple avenues all across India. Perhaps then the claim of Mumbai belonging to Maharashtrians will be automatically dropped.
We have wasted enough time, effort and resources in waging a war based on regionalism which could instead be used to more fruitful results.
India has always recognised linguistic, regional and religious identities as a reality, but the strength of India’s unity in diversity is achieved when all these identities eventually converge into a larger national identity of Indianness.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
-Martin Luther King, Jr
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