'The poor deserve same educational opportunities as rich'

'The poor deserve same educational opportunities as rich'

The Inquirer

 N R Narayana MurthyDespite repeated verbal attacks on him questioning his commitment to Karnataka and his mother tongue, Kannada, he did not react all these days. Not that he did not want to join the issue but because he has no doubts about his feelings towards the state.

Following a request by chief minister Yeddyurappa, Murthy has decided to be the chief guest at the inaugural function of the World Kannada Conference starting in Belgaum on March 11. He is going to take a day’s break from his hectic schedules to be in Belgaum. In an interview with Asha Krishnaswamy of Deccan Herald, Murthy made his stand clear on some of the questions raised by his detractors including writer Bargur Ramachandrappa, whom he calls as ‘my extremely good friend’.


You are being called anti-Kannada....

It is extremely wrong. Every year about 200-250 peons, drivers and cleaning women in my office seek my help to get their children admitted to English medium schools. I can help a few but not all.

I feel the poor should also get the same opportunities and facilities as being provided to the rich and powerful. Even poor people have the ambition of making their children study MBA, engineering, journalism, etc. With this in mind, I had broached the subject with then chief minister S M Krishna. He had convened a meeting where I said parents should have the choice to decide in which medium their children should study.

There was an argument that parents may not be able to decide. Then I suggested that let protagonists of both Kannada and English explain the positive and negatives through TV programmes and newspapers. Later let people decide what they want. In a democracy should we not provide opportunity to the poor? Other than this, I had no other personal interest.

Both my children are abroad. I do not know where my grandchildren will settle. But my children speak, read and write Kannada. They studied Kannada as the second language. My wife writes books in Kannada. I speak and read Kannada. I have tremendous respect for Kannada.

What was your medium of instruction in school?

I studied in Kannada medium in government middle schools in Madhugiri and Srinivasapura and later in the Mandya government high school. I interact with my secretary and other staff in Kannada.

You are hurt by the accusations hurled at you?

... I have been invited for hundreds of conferences globally. I have been treated with utmost respect in all these conferences held in the most advanced countries. Now I am little bit surprised. Even before my excellent friend Bargur Ramachandrappa raised the question as to why I have been invited, I myself raised it with chief minister Yeddyurappa when he invited me to the conference. I asked him why was he not inviting a Kannada litterateur. Jaware Gowda, Shivarudrappa, Girish Karnad, S L Byrappa, Nissar Ahmed... they are all extraordinary people. Then I was told that the conference was not just about Kannada language but it is to show what Karnataka has achieved in different fields over the last 25 years.

How important is this conference to you?

Whenever I have been invited with affection to attend a function, I have accepted it without considering how useful or important it is to me. Another criteria is whether I will be able to inspire youngsters by interacting with them. I am told the Kannada conference is a multi-dimensional one.

Do you think Bangalore will get the Union territory tag with dwindling Kannada speaking population?

No. There is no such danger as long as we work together to make the City better for every citizen, poor and rich, educated and not so well educated, for the powerful and the weak. None will be able to touch us. The largest population of Bangalore happens to be Kannada-speaking people.

What according to you is a ‘Kannada mind?’

First we have to makes sure that world class textbooks on science and maths are available in Kannada. We must encourage students to take part in competitions held in Kannada. In other words, the language should be made attractive. But you can’t make that by shutting children from learning other languages.

How much does a language matter to you?

It matters a lot. I speak to my family members in Kannada. I write to my mother in Kannada. When I have to express my emotions, it has to be in Kannada because I have been brought up in that language. The joy I get in reading good Kannada books is much more than what I get while reading other language books. The feeling is excellent when I read good Kannada books authored by Byrappa, Ananthamurthy and others. But when it comes to science & technology, I understand it better in English. It is all about the lingua franca of the domain in which we transact.

How can Karnataka be empowered?

If Kannada is to be stronger, Kannadigas have to be stronger. If Kannadigas have to be stronger, then Karnataka has to be strong. This can happen only when we create more and more jobs with good disposable income. There is no other way than this. That is what Infosys is doing and we are proud of it.