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Importance for exams:

  • Mains: Understanding the pros and cons of promoting a single language in a multilingual India. Drawing parallels from events around the globe on similar issue
  • Prelims: Constitutional provisions related to the issue

Context:

NDA Govt has come under severe criticism in the past for its efforts to promote Hindi and making it compulsory for all Central government offices to communicate on social media.

Present Scenario:

Hindi is widely spoken in the north, but southern and eastern states have always opted for local languages or English. Five decades ago, efforts to impose Hindi as the country’s only official language had triggered violent riots in the south.

Constitutional provisions:

  1. There is no national language as declared by the Constitution of India.
  2. The Constitution lists Hindi written in Devanagari script as well as English as the official language of the govt of India. Hindi and English are used for official purposes such as parliamentary proceedings, judiciary, communications between the Central Government and a State Government.
  3. States within India have the liberty and powers to specify their own official language(s) through legislation.
  4. The Constitution imposes a duty upon the Centre to promote the spread and development of the Hindi language so that it may become the lingua franca of the composite culture of India.
  5. The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages. The Government of India is under an obligation to take measures for the development of these languages.
  6. The Constitution also contains certain special directives to protect the interests of linguistic minorities.

Why does language continue to be such an emotive issue?

  1. This is because language is regarded by people as indissolubly connected with their culture. E.g. in Tamil Nadu, disinterest in Hindi stems from the pride of people in Tamil heritage. They are happy, and proficient enough, using English when Tamil doesn’t work.
  2. This issue continues to be exploited by the political parties for narrow political ends.
  3. Linguistic problems are not limited to India and have arisen in other parts of the world too. In Ireland there has been a fierce agitation concerning the language of the Irish people; and in spite of the fact that practically every educated Irishman knows English, they have adopted the Irish language as their national language.

The linguistic question has affected the rise of nationalities in the East too. In Iran there has been a movement that a purely Iranian language free from Arabian influence should be the national language of Iran. Similar campaigns have been observed in Poland, Wales and Turkey too.

Reasons behind the Government’s recent push for promotion of Hindi:

  1. English is seen as a remnant of India’s colonial past.
  2. The Government, as also empowered by the Constitution, wants to popularize Hindi so that gradually it can become the lingua franca of the India.

Criticism of recent steps taken by the Government for promotion of Hindi:

  1. The government should not favor one language over the other in a country that has benefitted from its knowledge of English.
  2. The English language skills of Indian engineers gave momentum to the growth of the country’s famous information technology industry.
  3. In a globalizing world, India’s familiarity with English is a huge benefit.

Arguments given in favour of promotion of Hindi and other Indian languages:

  1. We should not abandon what is ours in terms of culture and language.
  2. Assertion of our linguistic identities is the key to international respect and power. As long as we speak and deal with the west in English, we are essentially playing on fields created for them. If we speak and converse in our languages, the field automatically levels out.
  3. Greater use of Indian languages would in turn fuel the need for thousands of translators and multi-lingual skills, both from Indian to foreign languages, and between Indian regional languages themselves. We would need as many English-Hindi, Japanese-Tamil translators as Hindi-Tamil, Kannada-Bengali translators.
  4. As we reinvest money and emotion into our own languages, more original work will be done in them, and more foreign work can be translated into local languages, creating a huge deluge of jobs.

The way ahead:

  1. A national government promoting a single language in a multi language country is against the idea of multiculturalism and a multilingual, federal polity. The objective of the government should be on the imperatives of communicating with people all over India, rather than trying to decide on the language of communication.
  2. The Government is well within its rights to promote Hindi, but it must realise that belief of one nation and one language can divide more than unite. In South Asia alone, there are two examples – of West Pakistan imposing Urdu on East Pakistan and Sri Lankan Government imposing Sinhalese on the Tamils – where language conflict led to civil wars.
  3. Hindi has already made considerable inroads through entertainment and Bollywood. Bollywood movies in multiplexes now attract a lot of local audiences, particularly the new generation, and the entertainment industries seem to be contiguous. The best course of action, thus would be letting languages evolve on their own and allowing people to choose.
  4. The Government must, instead, build liberal institutions where scholarship of various languages can flourish.

 

Quotable Quote (useful for essay)

We should keep our windows fully open to ideas from everywhere, but we need not choose to be blown off our feet by anyone of them – M.K.Gandhi

Any doubts?


  1. Profile photo of Gurleen Kaur Gurleen Kaur

    The debate between Hindi enthusiast R V Dhulekar and the President of the CA about the Hindi translation of the Constitution (CAD XI: 984–85):
    In his opening remarks, the President did take note of theseriousness of the language issue, among other things:
    One of the problems which the Constituent Assembly took considerable time in solving relates to the language for official purposes of the country… we have been able to adopt Hindi which is the language that is understood by the largest number of people in the country as our official language. I look upon this as a decision of very great importance when we consider that in a small country like Switzerland they have no less than three official languages and in South Africa two official languages. It shows a spirit of accommodation and a determination to organize the country as one nation that those whose language is not Hindi have voluntarily accepted it as the official language (Cheers). There is no question of imposition now… and let me hope that it will develop into a national language… The use of English during the period of transition was considered inevitable for practical reasons (CAD XI: 992).

    Hope it helps.

    In case you wish to read about the related constitutional debates in detail, I can mail some material to you as well.

    1. Profile photo of ajit kumar ajit kumar

      Kindly mail these documents on priyash2510@gmail.com

    2. Profile photo of Kunal Aggarwal Kunal Aggarwal

      Thanks Gurleen! This shows that the President of the assembly hoped that it would become National language. But still leaves others. 🙂

      I am not if I will have time to through debates in detail but let’s see. Please mail me at ggrwlknl@gmail.com

      1. Profile photo of Gurleen Kaur Gurleen Kaur

        Please check your email.
        Hope the document helps.

        1. Profile photo of munna kumar munna kumar

          Pls mail me ..
          Munna.raj94@gmail.com

  2. Profile photo of Kunal Aggarwal Kunal Aggarwal

    Is there any evidence in constitutional debates that the framers wanted to put Hindi as national language even in future? @discuss

  3. Profile photo of Pranav Pathak Pranav Pathak

    Thank you CD.. Loved the wordcloud, now simply can’t forget Bengali is the 2nd most popular language.
    Is that Wales /Welsh after Poland?

  4. Profile photo of Focus Ias Focus Ias

    Thanks for this CD explains

Efforts on to make Hindi an official language at UN: Sushma

  1. Source: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha
  2. What: Efforts are on to make Hindi one of the official languages of the United Nations and popularise the language the world over
  3. In this regard, one significant achievement has been the UN broadcasting its programmes on the UN Radio website in Hindi language also
  4. Indian leaders have delivered statements at the UN in Hindi
  5. To promote it as an international language, a World Hindi Secretariat was also set up in Mauritius in 2008
  6. Among others, the 8th World Hindi Conference was organised in New York in July 2007 and its inaugural session was held at the UN headquarters

Constitutional provisions related to languages

  1. A 29-30: Related to interests of minorities (including linguistic minorities)
  2. A 120, 348: Language to be used in Parliament and SC, HC and for Acts, Bills etc
  3. A 343-349: Official language of the Union, States, official communication, Committee of Parliament, some other special provisions
  4. A 350-351: Special Directives including language for grievance redressal, instruction in mother tongue for primary education, special officer, development of Hindi
  5. Schedule VIII: Lists the official languages (now 22)
  6. This is the right time we go back to our polity book and revise all these articles
  7. This kind of thematic study of Language provisions would give you a wide scope of understanding on the issue and would indeed reflect in your answers

Including more languages into Schedule VIII

  1. The proposal to include English along with 37 other regional languages like Bhojpuri, Chattisgarhi, Khasi and Bundelkhandi in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution, granting it an official status, has been pending with the Centre for 12 years now
  2. The committee for this purpose has given its report and Govt is examining it
  3. English: Govt Considers that it is an international language used for convenience

A related question on classical language from Prelims 2015:

Which one of the following was given classical language status recently?
a) Odia
b) Konkani
c) Bhojpuri
d) Assamese

Hindi is official language

  1. Minister of State (Home): Hindi and English have become the link languages for official correspondence
  2. Centre will continue to promote Hindi as it was the official language as envisaged in the Constitution
  3. But, at the same time, we have important languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Gujarati, Odiya and Assamese
  4. In India, nobody should force anybody to adopt a particular language
  5. Background: It was on September 14, 1949, that the drafting committee of the Constitution had agreed to accept Hindi as the official language of India
  6. From then on the day is celebrated as Hindi Divas across all Central ministries, departments and offices

Centre against imposition of Hindi

  1. Minister of State (Home): Govt is against imposing Hindi on other regional languages like Tamil, Kannada or Telugu
  2. Policy is very clear: We have to promote all indigenous Indian languages
  3. Prmotion of Hindi: Centre will continue to promote Hindi as it is the official language envisaged in the Constitution
  4. Promotion of regional languages: It is the responsibility of the respective States
  5. Context: NDA Govt has come under severe criticism in the past for its efforts to promote Hindi and making it compulsory for all Central government offices to communicate on social media


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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