Transport Minister Diwakar Raote, a Shiv Sena member in Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet, today said the government had decided to issue quite a large number of auto rickshaw permits and the only conditions for applicants is that they should speak Marathi and should be residents of respective localities for 15 years.

Opposition Congress and NCP were quick to slam the decision accusing Sena and BJP of whipping up the sons-of-the-soil sentiment for making gains in Mumbai civic polls due in early 2017.

"As a Diwali gift to the people, the government will issue one lakh fresh auto permits in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (which includes parts of adjoining districts) and 25 percent of the existing number of autos in other parts of the State," Raote told reporters.

"In 1997, the then government had stopped issuing fresh auto permits. But in the last 15 years, the population of the state has increased rapidly and we think at least one lakh fresh permits need to be issued in MMR region alone," he said. "The only conditions the applicant must be able to fulfil are - he should speak Marathi and be a resident of (respective) locality for at least 15 years," Raote added.

The Minister made it clear those who do not fulfill these two conditions would not be issued permits. Criticising the Marathi string attached to decision, Congress and NCP leaders said BJP and Shiv Sena were once again raking up 'Marathi Manoos' (sons of the soil) issue in view of coming Mumbai Civic elections (slated in early 2017). The Congress said the maximum a government can do is to ensure an auto-driver knows the topography of the city.

Latest News from State News Desk