Document on Hindi draws flak in non-Hindi states

Official document on Hindi once again draws flak in non-Hindi speaking states

Representative image: iStock Photo

 An official document published annually for the "promotion and progressive use" of Hindi in central government offices and public sector banks and undertakings has once again triggered heat in non-Hindi speaking states.

The document -- Annual Programme for Transacting the Official Work of the Union in Hindi 2020-21 -- by the Department of Official Language in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said substantial business is "still being done in English" though progress has been made in the "progressive use of Hindi" but "targets are still to be achieved".

Among other things, it says civil servants are given a compulsory course in Hindi during their training but most of them do not use it in official work resulting in their subordinates "not getting the right message". It laments that Hindi is not used in official work to the "extent required".

"It is the Constitutional obligation on senior make progressive use of Hindi in their official work. This in turn will motivate the officials/employees working under them, thereby giving impetus to the compliance of the Official Language Policy," it says.

States are divided into three categories -- states where Hindi is mother tongue in A category, states where Hindi is used widely but not mother tongue like Maharashtra and Gujarat in B and the rest in C category.

As per the classification, 65% of the communication from offices in A category states to C category states and 55% of them from C to A should be in should be in Hindi, according to the target set over the years. It also stipulates that all should reply in Hindi if the letter they receive was in Hindi.

It also said the scheme to teach officials Hindi, which has been extended in 2008 for 17 years, will be ending in 2025 and the government now wants that the training on Hindi typing and stenography should be expedited. It has said that all should be trained within stipulated time period so that the targets are achieved within the prescribed time frame.

The document says that the usage of Hindi needs to be encouraged in scientific, information technology and technical subjects to the maximum in central ministries, departments and undertakings. It says for maximum usage of Hindi in scientific and technical subjects, it should be written in easy and simple manner so that common man can gain sufficient knowledge about scientific and technical subjects too.

However, this has not gone down well with many. Former Assam Director General of Police and Sahitya Akademi awardee Harekrishna Deka told DH that the Centre's tone has an "implied threat of punishment" if the officials did not learn it compulsorily. "This sounds like applying coercion and not persuasion. The attitude of the government seems insensitive to the sensitivity of the state officials, the bulk of whom will be speaking a mother tongue, and Hindi will seem hegemonistic on the state official languages," he said.

West Bengal Minister and Trinamool Congress Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said he was not aware of any such steps taken by the Centre. "We have a system of several languages. Our mother tongue ( Bengali), Hindi and English will continue as usual," he said.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the party which captured power in 1967 overthrowing the Congress regime riding on the anti-Hindi wave in Tamil Nadu, said it strongly opposes any move to impose Hindi on states where the language is not spoken.

Party spokesperson and Madurai (Central) MLA P T R Thiagarajan told DH that the three-language formula is a “logical fallacy” and is “invariably discriminatory” in a democratic setup. “From the days of C N Annadurai, we have said very clearly that we are for a two-language policy as we see English as our link language to the world. If the entire country applied the two language policy in a non-discriminatory way, then we will not find any need for another link language (like Hindi),” he said.

Thiagarajan also saw the attempts to “impose” Hindi as a “new version of colonialism” in a free India, while contending that native languages have disappeared in several states which have accepted Hindi as the ‘lingua franca’ of the government.

“Several scientific studies have proved mother tongue is crucial, and we need a link language to communicate with the rest of the world, which is English. Why should someone learn Hindi? Is this a new version of colonialism where we are being forced to learn the colonized language? This effects discrimination where non-Hindi speakers learn three languages, while Hindi speakers choose to learn only one,” Thiagarajan added.

VCK leader D Ravikumar, MP from Villupuram constituency in Tamil Nadu, said the BJP government has been giving importance only to Hindi in all its official communication and even in Parliament.

“The government has been trying to normalize the use of Hindi everywhere, be it in government offices, in official communication or even in Parliament. We got a few communication in Hindi and only when we protested, we received them in English. We need to raise our voice every time to get things done,” he said.

He also complained that even the ministers, who speak English, make it a point to deliver their speeches in Hindi in Parliament so as to normalize the use of the language.

Former MP and Janata Dal leader from Kerala Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who holds a doctorate in Hindi, said it is good that there is a common link language for the entire country and in that regard the steps towards promoting Hindi could be appreciated.

"However, since the BJP got an agenda of one nation, one language, the present moves to promote Hindi obviously raises suspicions," said Nadar, whose Hindi speeches in the Lok Sabha were much noticed.

Former Kerala chief secretary and first Vice Chancellor of Malayalam University in Kerala K Jayakumar said that there was no harm in making Hindi a common language for communication among central government organisations.

"But compelling states to follow Hindi is not at all acceptable as all languages are important and sacred. I don't think the Centre would make any such further moves in view of the violent reactions that states like Tamil Nadu witnessed towards one nation one language suggestions," he said.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox