Languages and Eighth Schedule

Language sensitivity and provisions in Constitution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Languages in the Eighth Schedule

Mains level : Paper 2- Eighth Schedule


Language sensitivity has been a feature of selfhood in the case of every Indian language.

 Sensitivity to language

  • From ancient times, a sensitivity to language difference has almost been the core of Dravidic self-hood.
  • A similar sensitivity existed among the speakers of Prakrits in ancient times.
  • It was in one of the Prakrits that Mahavir had presented his teachings in the sixth century BCE.
  • Eighteen centuries later, Acharya Hemachandra, a major Jain scholar, poet, mathematician and philosopher, produced his Desinamamala, a treatise on the importance of Prakrit words used in Gujarat of his times as against those from Sanskrit.
  • Mahatma Gandhi, who defined the idea of selfhood for India in Hind Swaraj (1909), chose to write this iconic book in Gujarati.

Constitutional provision

  • The official language used for communication between the States shall be the language that has been in use at the time of adoption of the Constitution.
  • The move from English to Hindi can take place only if, ‘two or more states agree’ for the shift.
  • Article 344 (4) provides for a ‘Committee consisting of thirty members’, ‘twenty’ from the Parliament and ‘ten’ from State assemblies, for safeguarding language-related provisions.

The distribution between two ministries

  • The functions and the scope of the committee, as laid down by the Constitution, are further clarified by the practice of distribution of language as a subject between two Ministries, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry and the Home Ministry.
  • The scope of the HRD Ministry extends to education and the promotion of cultural expression.
  • The Home Ministry’s scope extends to safeguarding relations of the States with the ‘union’, protecting the linguistic rights of language minorities and the promotion of Hindi.
  • The last of these, the Constitution states, has to be ‘without interference with other languages.

Data on language decline

  • In 2011, Hindi speakers accounted for 43.63% of the total population, with a total of 52.83 crore speakers.
  • In 1971, the number was 20.27 crore, accounting for 36.99% of the total population.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the growth in proportion of the population was 2.6%.
  • The next most spoken language, Bangla, had negative growth.
  • It was spoken by 8.30% of Indians in 1991, 8.11% in 2001 and by 8.03% in 2011.
  • Telugu, which slid from 7.87% in 1991, to 7.19% in 2001 and 6.70% in 2011, has a similar story to tell.
  • Tamil recorded 6.32% of the total population in 1991, 5.91% in 2001 and 5.70% in 2011.
  • The only major language to show decadal growth (though small) was Gujarati.
  • And the only small yet scheduled language to show good growth was Sanskrit.

Reasons for Hindi’s growth

  • The 52.83 crore speakers of Hindi (as recorded in 2011) included not just the speaker of ‘Hindi’ but also those of more than 50 other languages.
  • Bhojpuri and most languages of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand have also been pushed into the Hindi package.
  • Had the Census not included these other languages under Hindi, the strength of Hindi speakers would have gone down to about 39 crore, — just a little under 32% of the total population in 2011 — and would have looked not too different from those of other scheduled languages.
  • The data for English speakers is far more truthful. Census 2011 reports a total of 3,88,793 Indians as English speakers (2,59,678 men and 1,29,115 women).

Hindi in comparison to other languages in the Eighth schedule

  • Among the languages included in the Eighth Schedule, Hindi falls within the younger lot of languages.
  • On the other hand, Tamil, Kannada, Kashmiri, Marathi, Oriya, Sindhi, Nepali and Assamiya have a much longer/older history.
  •  As a language of knowledge too, Tamil, Kannada, Bangla and Marathi (with their abundance of encyclopaedias and historical literature), quite easily outshine Hindi.


A language evolves slowly and cannot be forced to grow by issuing ordinances.

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1 year ago

I think every Indian language is said to have a different semantics and grammar, with every grammar and element being their own words. Also, they cannot make sense of these immediately, because their grammar is not sufficiently similar to them and use to write my paper for me. Every language has its architecture and idiosyncrasies, which are related to the richness and authenticity of that language.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Carter


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