New Delhi: The Uddhav Thackeray-led government in the state Legislative Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed the bill to make Marathi language a compulsory subject in all schools across Maharashtra. Notably, the bill was tabled on the occasion of Marathi Language Day which marks the birth anniversary of poet and Jnanpith award winner late V V Shirwadkar. Also Read - Lockdown in Maharashtra Likely to be Extended Till May 31, Final Decision Soon: State Minister

The bill was introduced in the Lower House of the state Legislative Assembly today by state Language Minister Subhash Desai after the Council had passed the legislation, titled `Maharashtra Compulsory Teaching and Learning of Marathi Language in Schools Bill, 2020′, on Wednesday. Also Read - Mumbai to Open Drive-in Vaccination Centres in Several Areas. Check List

Addressing the state Assembly, Desai said the legislation was on the lines of laws in Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, and it makes teaching and studying Marathi compulsory in all schools (irrespective of the board to which they are affiliated). Also Read - Maharashtra Reports 920 Deaths, Highest in 24 Hours; Over 57K New Infections

As per the bill, Marathi will become a compulsory subject in all schools from standard 1st to 10th in a phased manner from the academic year 2020-2021. While it has been introduced in the first and sixth standards from the coming academic year, it will be extended to further classes in subsequent years. The subject will be taught from standards 1st to 10th from 2024, and the schools will follow a curriculum prescribed by the government, Desai told the house.

It must also be noted that the government will have the power to exempt a student or a class of students from all or any of the provisions of the Act. The Act also provides for a penalty of Rs 1 lakh for non-compliance.

Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis welcomed the bill but objected to the provision of exemption. “This will create a loophole. The penalty of Rs 1 lakh is too low. Several schools charge fees ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 12 lakh. Paying Rs 1 lakh would not be a problem for them,” the BJP leader said, adding that no provision was made for repeat offenders.

The former chief minister also noted that a person coming from outside the state should not be forced to learn Marathi.

However, Desai clarified that the rules that are to be framed under the Act would ensure there is no misuse of the exemption. “The clause is for students coming from outside Maharashtra,” he said.

He cited the example of someone from outside the state taking admission in Maharashtra in the seventh standard. The exemption was meant for such students as they would not be able to catch up with local students who would be studying the subject from the 1st standard, the minister said.