Languages and Eighth Schedule

Language sensitivity and provisions in Constitution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Languages in the Eighth Schedule

Mains level : Paper 2- Eighth Schedule

Context

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.

Conclusion

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

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