Babus at BMC might speak fluent English or even Hindi, but the ruling Sena-BJP combine on Tuesday made it mandatory to have all official communication in Marathi.
While Marathi has been the official language in the corporation since 1971, agendas and proposals were always printed in English and Marathi to help corporators, activists, citizens and journalists who were not too fluent with the local language. On Tuesday, the ruling combine passed an amendment in the rules at the general body meeting.
Eyebrows are being raised on the way the proposal was passed. The opposition claimed that mayor Shubha Raul, who presides over the general body meetings, did not allow a discussion on the proposal. She passed it within seconds, though at least 25 corporators from various opposition parties stood up to speak on the issue.
NCP corporator Vidya Chavan dubbed Raul a dictator. “A few months ago, she did not allow any discussion on Crawford Market’s redevelopment. And she has done it again. We want to know if she wants to run the house and approve important proposals without discussing with opposition parties.”
Though Chavan is a Maharashtrain, she agreed that some words were better understood in English than in Marathi. “It has long been a tradition of printing the agenda in English. I see no reason why it needs to be changed.” She said the opposition would pursue ways to reopen the proposal, including meeting the commissioner and filing a writ petition.
Opposition leader and Congressman Rajhans Singh said, “We are not against the use of Marathi as an official language. Many corporators prefer to read the agenda in English and they wanted to make their point. By not allowing them to speak, Raul murdered democracy.” Singh said opposition parties would meet her on Tuesday. “We will disrupt the house proceedings if such things are repeated again.”
Singh said the saffron alliance should do away with playing “petty politics” over the language. “If their leaders are really serious about promoting Marathi, they should admit their children in Marathi schools instead of English ones.”
(With inputs from Ashutosh Shukla)