Languages panel recommendations and a fresh ‘Hindi imposition’ row

The 11th part of the report of the Official Language Commission headed by Interior Minister Amit Shah, which was presented to President Droupadi Murmu last month, has caused angry reactions from the top ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, who have described the report as an attempt by the Union government to impose Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking states.

However, committee members argued that their response was “misguided” because media reports about the alleged content of the report were “misleading”. The report submitted to the president is confidential, they said.

What is this language panel headed by Amit Shah?

The Parliamentary Committee on the Official Language was established in 1976 under Section 4 of the Official Languages ​​Act of 1963. Article 4 of the Act states: “An official language commission shall be established when a resolution to that effect is filed in either House of Parliament with the previous sanction of the President and passed by both Houses”.

The Committee is chaired by the Union Minister of the Interior and, in accordance with the provisions of the 1963 Act, has 30 members — 20 Members of Parliament from Lok Sabha and 10 MPs from Rajya Sabha. It is the task of the committee to assess the progress made in the use of Hindi for official purposes and to make recommendations to increase the use of Hindi in official communication.

The name of the committee is a bit misleading. The reason for this is that, unlike the other parliamentary panels, the Parliamentary Committee on the Official Language is composed by the Ministry of the Interior and does not submit its report to Parliament, like parliamentary committees. Pursuant to the provisions of the 1963 Act, the panel submits its report to the President, who “shall” [then] ensure that the report is presented to every House of Parliament and sent to all state governments”.

What did the Shah panel recommend in its latest 2021 report?

The contents of the report submitted to President Murmu on September 9 by Shah and other members of the commission are not public. Sources close to the commission said it has made about 100 recommendations, including that Hindi should be the language of instruction in IITs, IIMs and central universities in the Hindi-speaking states. The panel has the largest representation of the BJP — majority of members belong to the ruling party — and include MPs from the BJD, Congress, JD(U), Shiv SenaLJP, AAP and TDP.

“The language used for communication in the administration should be Hindi, and efforts should be made to teach the curriculum in Hindi, but the latter is not compulsory. Lower courts in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan already use Hindi. High courts in other states, where proceedings are recorded in English or a regional language, may provide translations into Hindi, as Supreme Court rulings of other states are often cited in rulings,” a source said, citing the recommendations.

The panel has learned to be serious about officers and other central government employees who do not use Hindi in Hindi-speaking states. The panel wants state governments to warn officials that their reluctance to use Hindi would be reflected in their Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR), the sources said.

“It is the Committee’s responsibility and role to ensure that the Hindi language is promoted in official communications and there are recommendations to that effect. Communications, including letters and emails, questionnaires for recruitment exams, events organized by the government and its departments, will have to be in Hindi,” a source said.

The source added that “there are specific proposals to simplify the language in official letters and invitations.” The “crux” of the recommendations is that “a deliberate effort should be made to reduce the use of the English language in official communication and increase the use of Hindi,” the source said. “Knowledge of Hindi would be mandatory in some government jobs,” he said.

Are these recommendations for every state government, its institutions and departments across the country?

“No, they are not,” said senior BJD MP and deputy committee chairman Bhartruhari Mahtab. The Indian Express. “The response from the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu appears to have been based on misleading information, as some of the reports that appeared about the committee’s recommendations were confusing,” Mahtab said.

According to Mahtab, “States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala are exempt under the Official Language Act, 1963 and the Rules and Regulations (of the Act), 1976. The Act is implemented only in ‘A’ category states, where the official language is Hindi. ”

According to the rules, Region ‘A’ includes the states of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and the Union Territories of Delhi and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Region ‘B’ includes Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab, and the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Other states, where the use of Hindi is less than 65 percent, are listed under Region ‘C’.

The committee has suggested that efforts should be made to use Hindi “100 percent” in the ‘A’ states. The language of instruction in IITs, central universities and Kendriya Vidyalayas in the ‘A’ states should be Hindi, while the regional language should be used in other states, the committee would have recommended.

On the use of Hindi in government departments, Mahtab said: “The use of Hindi in ministries such as Defense and Home Affairs is 100 percent, but the Ministry of Education has not reached that level yet. The commission had certain parameters to assess the language usage and found that in many central universities including University of Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia, BHU and AMU, usage is only 25-35 percent when it should have been 100 percent. ”

Is this the first time such recommendations have been made?

The drafters of the Constitution had decided that both Hindi and English would be used as official languages ​​for the first 15 years of the Republic, but in the wake of intense anti-Hindi movements in the south, the Center announced that English would remain are used even after 1965. On January 18, 1968, Parliament passed the Official Language Resolution to build a comprehensive program to increase the use of Hindi for official purposes by the Union of India.

Now that the active promotion of Hindi has been mandated by Article 351 of the Constitution, the Official Language Commission was established to review and promote the use of Hindi in official communication. The commission’s first report was submitted in 1987. The ninth report, submitted in 2011 by the panel led by the then Home Secretary P Chidambaram, made 117 recommendations, including suggestions to increase the use of Hindi on computers in government buildings.

“The committee recommends that all ministries/departments immediately provide bilingual computers and train civil servants…so that they can also work in Hindi…” said the Chidambaram-led panel. The recommendations were criticized and concerns were raised in Tamil Nadu, especially about the alleged “Hindi imposition”.

With the BJP, considered a party of the Hindi heart in the southern states, now in power in the Centre, efforts to promote Hindi have revived decades-old concerns over the alleged imposition of Hindi. Parliament has witnessed heated exchanges between the Treasury and the opposition, particularly members from Tamil Nadu, over Union ministers answering questions in Hindi. In recent years, Karnataka has seen protests against the use of Hindi on signboards and posters.

What does the new education policy say about teaching in Hindi and other regional languages?

The announcement of the new National Education Policy (NEP) in 2020 also caused controversy on this issue. Politicians from South India had alleged attempts to ‘impose Hindi and Sanskrit’; however, the Center had said it only promotes regional languages. The NEP says the native or regional language would be the “preferred form” of instruction up to class 5, and possibly class 8.

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