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    Retailers duel the Marathi drive

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    Retailers across the country are already dueling with issues pertinent to the development in the industry, but that probably is not enough for the (MNS). On August 26, MNS supremo Raj Thackeray put up posters across Mumbai saying ‘three days left for putting up the boards in Marathi’, even as his cadre vandalised several shop windows in Thane.

    Thackeray further wrote a letter asking cops to “think twice” and question their conscience before lathi-charging MNS activists involved in the agitation to enforce the Mumbai civic body’s deadline stipulating Marathi signboards on city shops by August 28.

    Retailers and federations across the country have been voicing their disgust on this issue to Indiaretailing. Calling the past few days’ events unlawful, associations related to the business of retail in India have been ruing about the of-late lawlessness permeating the state of Maharashtra.

    Retailers have been responding to Indiaretailing.com on the Mumbai hoardings controversy.

    FRTWA:
    Viren Shah, joint secretary, Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA), said, “We all undersigned shop-keepers, associations, hoteliers and prominent citizens have asked for complete safety to be provided to all the shopkeepers in Mumbai and Thane. Inspite of several letters from our associations, there is no security provided to the shopkeepers against violence and threats by MNS party.”

    Demanding support from the government, Shah said, “The present government should immediately control this situation and book the culprit. It is time for Mumbaikars and all traders to think whether this ruling government can guarantee safety to Mumbai. We feel that immediate action should be taken against Raj Thackeray and his MNS party to control the situation in Mumbai.”

    “MNS party feels they are above the High Court order and are illegally and forcefully throwing their weight on to the citizens and traders,” says Shah.

    “If this continues, we (traders) have decided not to vote for a government that cannot control a law & order problem and ensure safety for its citizens.”

    The Federation, on September 18, 2000, had filed a written petition in the wherein it secured a stay order on having signboards in Marathi.

    As per the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments rules, if a store name board in any language or script (other than Marathi, in Devnagari script) is put up, the lettering of the name board in Marathi (in Devnagari script) shall “not be less bold than any other language or script used”. According to this Act it is mandatory for the name board of every establishment to be in Marathi in the Devnagari script. In addition, it can also display its name in any other language or script.

    FRTWA has challenged the rule 20-A under the article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India and argued that the move is not only illegal but also an infringement of the freedom of speech and expression.

    “We request all the establishments, shops, hotels, and other entities to put up a board in Marathi and not remove the existing board in whichever the language. If any Government, BMC officer or any political party forces an establishment to put up a name board with the Marathi text in a bigger and bolder language, then the establishment should complain to the police to take necessary steps,” said Shah.

    RANJIV RAMCHANDANI, CEO, TANTRA

    The bottomline is that while retail will only talk ‘economics’, politicians can only talk ‘politics’.

    We are living in a democracy. As a citizen of this country, I am free to practice any religion, speak any language and adopt any custom of my choosing. Thus, if I prefer to listen to English Classic Rock over, say, Hindi songs, I am free to do so. The wonderful Constitution of my country provides me this fundamental right. Similarly, if I have a product to sell, I am free to sell it to whoever I choose to target. If my target audience is Japanese, I would choose to have a name board in Japanese and not English or Marathi.

    Times of India is a daily that targets the English-reading audience. Should the Times also change its masthead to include Marathi? Should the English ads in the TOI Mumbai edition also be in 50 per cent Marathi? Where is this leading to?

    SPOKESPERSON, GAS

    There is a corporate stay on comments/opinions on the said issue as it is politically sensitive and the company wishes to keep a constant tab on current scenario before concluding any opinions.

    However, you should be informed that our stores in Mumbai are incorporating signage in Marathi that is almost equivalent to the prominence of branding in English

    ACHCHYUT KUMAR, GENERAL MANAGER, REALTY AND CORPORATE COMMUNICATION, FORBES AND CO. LTD

    Liberty is not what I think I need to have. In jurisprudence, it has been defined as ‘that sphere of my activities in which the law is content to leave me alone’. Hence, if putting up boards in Marathi becomes the law finally, I will like to see every shopkeeper abide by it.

    Believe it or deny it, actually it was the Western education that gave rise to our feelings of nationalism. Today, regional risings seem to be diluting the complete sense of nationalism. Unfortunately, today, we do not understand the meaning of a metropolitan town. Having gone around various places of the country I realise that today India has just one truly metropolitan town — Port Blair. The other larger towns of this country have definitely some lessons to learn.

    Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court, in response to an application filed by a few traders’ associations, has restrained Thackeray and MNS members from disturbing the traders in the city from carrying on their business activity, defacing or damaging their business property and assaulting or threatening them.

    Indeed, Indiaretailing looks forward to proactive participation of all stakeholders in the business of retail to react to the exercise and awaits more industry-consolidating suggestions that would help the government combat the situation.

    By Zainab Morbiwala

    (Photo: This topical t-shirt was incidentally created by a Maharashtrian Art Director who works for Tantra)