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.
- 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.