News Source: Indiatoday| Image: ebharat
On 25th August, members of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had barged into the premises of Central Railways (CR) and humiliated a woman employee, Swati Sinha, for asking an RTI applicant to submit his application in Hindi or English. According to the party workers, the employee should have accepted the application written in Marathi. MNS spokesperson, Vageesh Saraswat had defended the action of his party men saying that anybody working in Maharashtra should know Marathi language and culture. If there were any lapses, neither a man nor a woman would be spared.
According to railways officials, the employee had requested the applicant to write in Hindi or English because the Marathi handwriting was not legible (one was not able to read it properly). The CR receives hundreds of applications in Marathi and there have been no such issues till now.
It is true that there is a provision in an RTI application that it can be filed either in Hindi or English or the official language of that state (called Raj Bhasha). Also, it is obligatory on the part of the officers concerned to reply in the language in which the application has been submitted. If the reply is in another language then a copy of it in the language of the application has to be provided.
However, in this case, the lady employee had simply asked for a re-submission of the application in either Hindi or English since Marathi was not legible. Given this context, barging into her office and insulting the woman so much so that she broke down was uncalled for. A formal complaint against the MNS party workers has not been filed as it would unnecessarily escalate the matter.
According to Rajiv Singal, former Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee (DRUCC) member of Mumbai Division, CR, another more peaceful and less traumatizing route of filing a complaint could have been used. The MNS party workers could have approached the senior officers of Central Railways or even filed an appeal with an appellate authority. The issue would have been solved without politicizing the issue and causing any mental trauma to the woman employee.
There is a larger issue at play here. We are living in a diverse country like India which is multicultural. While it is genuinely desirable on the part of citizens to know the culture of others around them, someone should not be discriminated against or bullied for their lack of knowledge about languages and cultures of other groups, particularly if there has been a lapse only once. India is one country and such divisional attitude will only harm the interests of the country, restricting the work force to one place / state even if they can be gainfully employed in other states / territories.