Maharashtra unveils plans to teach Marathi to non-Maharashtrian hawkers, labourers and taxi and rickshaw drivers in Mumbai

Published : February 13, 2021 11:56 IST

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Photo: SHASHANK PARADE/PTI

The Marathi bhasha (language) Department of the Maharashtra government will be launching a novel initiative in two months. The State has turned teacher and has decided to teach Marathi. Its target audience are hawkers, labourers and taxi and rickshaw drivers. Beginning May 1, the State has set itself the target of teaching 5,000 students for a period of one year, after which they will be expected to be proficient in the language. The aim of the initiative is to promote Marathi.

Possibly, the initiative is backed by a larger plan of integration; not of the enforced kind but one that makes life easier for this target group by facilitating communication in the local tongue for daily living. The potential students come in contact on a regular basis with authorities such as the police and municipal officials who are notorious for giving preferential treatment to Marathi speakers. Marathi is also the language that is almost solely used by officialdom. Speaking the language will undoubtedly smoothen the day-to-day lives of potential students.

But there are two ways of looking at this. One is that it raises the bogey of the old Shiv Sena, one that was parochial, non-inclusive and violent towards “bhaiyyas”, “madrassis” and anyone not from the State. The other is the image that is being sought to be created, inclusive, welcoming and cosmopolitan and, of course, promoting Marathi. So far, almost everything that Thackeray has promulgated has been the exact opposite of the old Sena. There has been a liberal and modern streak that has been on display. This move could well be a part of it. But, on the other hand, he has also stuck firmly to old “values”, especially that of Hindutva and the building of a temple at Ayodhya, the renaming of places like Aurangabad and the firm backing for the contentious Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue.

According to the teach-Marathi plan, classes will be held in all the civic wards of the city. Potential learners will be told of the classes and can sign up voluntarily. Online resources are being planned as well.

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