Mumbai: The Maharashtra Assembly on Thursday, March 24, unanimously passed a bill that aims to make use of the Marathi language mandatory in official works of local authorities, including civic bodies and corporations formed by the state government.
State minister Subhash Desai said the introduction of the bill was necessitated as the Maharashtra Official Language Act, 1964 did not make it mandatory for the local authorities to use Marathi in their official works. He also cited examples of the authorities taking “advantage” of the lack of the provision in the Act. “It is our effort to do away with that mistake,” Mr Desai said.
With the passing of the bill, any (local) authority, be it established by the state government or the central government or (state-run) corporations, will have to use Marathi while interacting with people and in internal works too.
Additionally, the use of English or Hindi by local authorities for certain government works like communicating with foreign ambassadors has been allowed.
Speaking on the bill earlier, BJP MLA Yogesh Sagar wondered why the “love for Marathi” surfaces when elections are around. He was apparently referring to local body polls, including that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which are due.
Mr Sagar backed the bill and said all the files must be in Marathi only. Countering him, Mr Desai said the issue should not be linked to politics. “Should we not discharge our duties just because the elections are around the corner? It is our right to bring the bill. Elections will come and go,” he added.
This month only, the state assembly also approved a law that made it mandatory for all shops and establishments to have Marathi written in the Devanagari script on their signboards. The bill said that the font size of the lettering in Marathi-Devanagari should not be smaller than the font size of letters in any other language that is used on the signage.
In 2017, the Maharashtra government had made it compulsory for all shops and establishments in the state to have signboards in Marathi and in the Devanagari script. However, some establishments (less than 10 workers) tried to evade this rule. In some cases, while the name was mentioned in capital letters in English, the signage in Marathi was in the smaller case.
The new Act has mandated that even those shops employing less than 10 workers will need signage in Marathi. The establishments can have any other language and script on their name boards. The law also stipulates that no establishment where liquor is served or sold shall have a name board in the name of legends, icons, or forts.