Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy on Friday questioned the rationale behind asking people to learn Hindi in pursuit of jobs, saying those selling pani puri in the state are "Hindi speakers."
He made the remarks while defending the state’s ‘two-language’ policy that has adopted “international language” - English and “local language” - Tamil, leaving out Hindi in the presence of Governor R N Ravi at the convocation ceremony of the Bharathiar University in Coimbatore.
At the same event, Ravi dismissed charges that one language was being imposed by asserting that the Union Government was promoting all regional languages.
The minister, in his speech, questioned the need for a third language, especially Hindi. “In Tamil Nadu, there are two languages – English and Tamil. While English is an international language, Tamil is a local language. We were told that learning Hindi would fetch us jobs, did we get (jobs)? You go and see in our state, in Coimbatore, who sells pani puris? They are Hindi speakers,” Ponmudy said.
He also recalled why DMK founder C N Annadurai vociferously spoke in favour of English and against Hindi. “He (Anna) used to tell a story about a person making two separate entrances for cats and rats. That person was then told that a rat can also enter through the entrance made for cats. We are learning an international language, English. What is the need for other languages?” Ponmudy asked.
The minister’s remarks are seen as a response to the Governor, who has been batting for a third language in the state by citing the recommendations made in the New Education Policy. Ravi stoked a row in January when he said, “depriving students of knowledge of other Indian languages was unfair to all.”
The Tamil Nadu government feels implementing a three-language policy as suggested by the National Education Policy (NEP) will allow the backdoor entry of Hindi into the state in the form of third language. The DMK and AIADMK, which have ruled the state alternatively since 1967, are vehemently opposed to Hindi and have reiterated several times that the state will continue to follow the two-language policy.
The two-language policy – Tamil and English – was announced by the then Chief Minister C N Annadurai in 1967 and successive governments have followed the policy without making any changes. DMK, the ruling party, vehemently opposed Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent suggestion replacing Hindi with English as the link language of the country, opining it was not good for the unity of the country.