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Linguistic Chauvinism: PUTTING CART BEFORE HORSE, By Chanchal Chauhan, 2 July, 2014 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 2 July 2014    

Linguistic Chauvinism


By Chanchal Chauhan

Social networking websites are the buzzwords in the corridors of power. Specially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly gave directions last month to his Ministers to open their respective Ministries accounts on sites like Twitter and Facebook and supervise them. Further, they should inform about major decisions taken on their Twitter accounts.

This is not all. He asked his colleagues to use Hindi on the social networking platforms, followed by another move to encourage linguistic chauvinism in the Central Secretariat. Towards that end, a circular announced Rs 2000 prize to two employees who do their official work mostly in Hindi. True, this diktat is not new as it has been the practice with all previous Governments to promote Hindi as the official language. A ritual which signifies nothing.

Predictably, the Prime Minister’s linguistic chauvinism to use Hindi led to a furore and was criticised by those who thought it was an affront to our tradition of unity in diversity.  Till, the Government clarified the order was only for Hindi-speaking States.

Recall, during our freedom struggle some leaders gave the slogan of ‘Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan’ whereby Hindi came to be treated as our national language in the Constitution. Notwithstanding, the slogan ignored the ground reality that India is a multi-lingual, multi-national and multi-cultural country boasting of plurality and unity in diversity.

During the initial years, Hindi chauvinism led to riots and protests in many regions. The NDAII clarification has averted a similar situation in areas which are sensitive to imposition of Hindi specially officers who work at the Centre. Pertinently, there is a big chunk of officials in Ministries who come from South India and imposition of Hindi would jeopardise their work and efficiency, leading to chaos.

One can understand the problem faced by many Ministers who might not be the well-versed in English or like Modi prefer to communicate in Hindi. But the moot point is: Will the use of Hindi in file work and reports not be equally problematic for those who do not understand Hindi? Perhaps, even Hindi scholars might find the language used in Ministries difficult to decipher? Also, Ministries reports on websites might not be seen?

As it stands, the budgetary allocation for Hindi is spent only on translation of reports, letters and answers to Parliamentary questions. Additionally, there is a ‘Central Hindi Directorate’ which spends huge amounts on Hindi as every Ministry uses English in work. Thus, orders to use Hindi cannot help till it does not address this fundamental problem as it does more harm than good.

Arguably, one needs a sensible approach to the Hindi usage question. Notably, the Central Government gets representation from across the country in various languages and people should get replies from the Centre in the same language. But this is not done. So, instead of having ‘Hindi units’ in each Ministry, there should be a ‘Translation unit’ comprising translators in all Indian languages whereby people do not feel their language is discriminated against.

Besides, basic information, orders etc. should also be available in all languages. Ministers and officials not well-versed in English should be asked to learn the language instead of wasting money on teaching Hindi to them. Also, the practice of spending Government money on prizes for Hindi books or celebrating the ‘Hindi week’ should stop.

Furthermore, one should not ignore that English has become the part of every day work of a large number of people given it is a necessary tool for learning the latest technology required for jobs in India and abroad. Consequently, English usage has turned Hindi as useless to get jobs. Therefore, one should look at the problem from this angle, not from an emotional or chauvinistic outlook.

Importantly, across the country many private English teaching shops are mushrooming to meet the surge of people wanting to master the language. Why can’t our Ministers learn English to perform their duties efficiently? Why is the Government putting the cart before the horse?

A cursory look at the status of Hindi and other regional languages at any university underscores that while brilliant students opt for professional streams like medical, business management, engineering, computer science, information technology etc, the second rung choose commerce, economics or English and the laggards pick Hindi, Sanskrit or another language.

Likewise, those who opt for Hindi-medium face the problem of books in subjects, papers and hardly find any relevant material in Hindi while English students get the latest matter in libraries and Internet. Our Hindi ‘chauvinists’ have not addressed this problem.

Significantly, Hindi has still to evolve into a standard language specially in keyboards as different keyboards pose a problem as do ‘fonts’ which are not inter-changeable unlike English keyboard which has a universal pattern and fonts can be converted easily. Resulting, in the huge budgetary allocation going down the drain. Perhaps, Hindi chauvinists are unaware of these technical problems and therefore indulge in ‘slogan-mongering’ to make Hindi the official language at the Centre.

Not a few assert as the BJP got only 31% votes, its Government at the Centre does not reflect the majority choice. Similarly, Hindi too is not representative of a majority as many in ‘Hindi speaking’ areas too do not speak it preferring their bhasha. Be it Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Haryanvi etc and want recognition of their mother-tongue.

Clearly, Hindi is not the language of a ‘nationality’ per se as is the case with foreign languages which espouse the country’s literature and culture. Obviously, Hindi has still to go extra miles to evolve as the national language as there are no short cuts and neither can official orders make it so.

All in all, our leaders should exercise restrain and understand this ground reality. Instead, they should work on promises of ushering ‘acchhe din’ for the common man who is hit by sky-rocketing prices, hike in rail fare, gas and petrol-diesel despite crude oil prices falling in international markets leading to higher transportation costs, electricity and essential  commodities. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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