The power of linguistic regionalism

There is no unanimity regarding a common language which may be a national language of communication.

After the reorganisation of states on the basis of the respective languages, regionalism has gained both political power as also socio-economic importance. As each state language is more important than any other language, there is no unanimity regarding some common language which may be a national language of communication in all states as also in the language of governance in the country.         This is the reason why students resorted to agitation for Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination in Hindi and not English as has been the practice for the last many years. The students launched their protest after the UPSC changed the pattern for the Civil Service (Main) exam. According to them, the UPSC preliminary test, till 2010 comprised a general studies paper and an optional paper. In 2011, the pattern was changed and Civil Service Aptitude Test was introduced which included two compulsory papers: CSATI and CSATII and latter has English language comprehension. This was done, they say, to keep out students from Hindi and humanities backgrounds from cracking UPSC. 

But while Hindi is acceptable to states in northern India, southern Indian states have their own languages and they normally do not accept any aggression on their home language. That is why the issue was raised in parliament by AIDMK member M Thambidurai who stressed that the students appearing for important examinations should be allowed to take their them in their regional languages. Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu had to respond positively with statement that there is force in the argument that the civil service examinations should be conducted in all languages listed in Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India and had to promise that the demand would be considered obviously in future examinations.   

Language of governance

Although English is a national language of governance at present and all officers of the higher cadres like the IAS, IPS or IFS are expected to follow English irrespective of their state languages, the situation may not be continued in future even though English is also language of global communication. This is because the English medium schools are more located in urban and semi-urban areas and they are costly for poor students in the rural and urban areas.

They are, therefore, not as much proficient in English as the students in English medium schools are. Thus, in competitive examinations there is no level-playing field and the poor students suffer while the rich or specially privileged by caste reservations students get the upper position in successful candidates’ list. This is also inconsistent with the principle of equity and equal opportunity.    

But if regional languages are accepted as medium of competitive examinations, the prospective officials had to be located in the states of their own languages and national importance of the competitive examinations would be to some extent neutralised. At present, as English is the language of administration at highest level of both the Union and state governments, people are not at ease to communicate.

 The IAS IPS cadres of officers are located in states with different regional languages. Although it is presumed that such officers should learn the regional languages in the states in which they are posted, the experience is that most of the officers are not so proficient in regional languages and they prefer to communicate in English. Alternatively, some arrangement should be made to translate all matters including public grievances disclosed in state language into English if this has to be continued as language of national governance.     

But if all regional languages have to be made medium of competitive examinations, the question remains as to which would be a language of not only national governance but also at the level of other national bodies like the Reserve Bank of India and nationalised banks and other semi-government organisations having national status. As these bodies have spread over with their branches in all states, they may have either limitations or scope for agitations if the state language aspirants will come forward to demand the medium of their own language in working of the branches. 

The language phenomenon is thus a sort of crisis which has to be solved by deliberations with the state governments and some permanent arrangement to keep one language either English or Hindi (for which the Modi government seems to be inclined to pursue) and to get the matter be translated in to the main national language either by in-house department or by way of outsourcing. The potential crisis should be solved amicably so as to prevent periodical agitations on linguistic issues at the cost of other more important national issues facing the country.

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