Baba’s Explainer – Language Panel Recommendations

  • IASbaba
  • October 14, 2022
  • 0
Indian Polity & Constitution
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  • GS-2: Indian Society – Diversity
  • GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure.

Context: The 11th volume of the Report of the Official Language Committee headed by Home Minister which was submitted to President recently has triggered angry reactions from the Chief Ministers of Southern States, who have described the Report as an attempt by the Union government to impose Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking states.

What is this language panel led by Union Home Minister?
  • The Committee of Parliament on Official Language was set up in 1976 under Section 4 of The Official Languages Act, 1963.
  • The Committee is chaired by the Union Home Minister, and has, in accordance with the provisions of the 1963 Act, 30 members — 20 MPs from Lok Sabha and 10 MPs from Rajya Sabha.
  • The job of the Committee is to review the progress made in the use of Hindi for official purposes, and to make recommendations to increase the use of Hindi in official communications.
  • The name of the Committee is a little misleading. This is because unlike the other Parliamentary panels, this Committee of Parliament on Official Language is constituted by the Home Ministry, and it does not submit its report to Parliament, like the Committees of Parliament.
  • Instead the panel submits its report to the President, who “shall then cause the report to be laid before each House of Parliament, and sent to all the State Governments”.
  • The 2021 panel has the largest representation from the BJP — the majority of members belong to the ruling party — and includes MPs from the BJD, Congress, JD(U), Shiv Sena, LJP, AAP, and TDP.
What is the status of Hindi in India?
  • India being a linguistic diverse country has always celebrated diversity. Our Constituent makers were conscious of this fact and hence debated hotly on the topic of language in Constituent Assembly.
  • Division in Constituent Assembly on the issue:
    • Members of Constituent assembly who came from states that did not speak Hindi opposed the declaration of Hindi as National Language for they feared it would lead to domination of Hindi at the cost of regional languages.
    • Proponents of Hindi were insistent that English was the language of enslavement and that it should be eliminated as early as possible.
    • There were demands to make Sanskrit the official language, while some argued in favour of ‘Hindustani’.
  • Compromise
    • Ultimately, it was decided that the Constitution will only speak of an ‘official language’ and not National Language.
    • It said that Hindi will be the Official Language of the Union. And that English would continue to be used for a period of 15 years
    • The Constitution said that after 15 years, Parliament may by law decide on the use of English (dealt by Official Languages Act, 1963).
  • Status of Hindi
    • Under Article 343 of the Constitution, the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The international form of Indian numerals will be used for official purposes.
    • Hindi is spoken by nearly 57% of Indians and 43% of people reported it as their mother tongue (Census 2011)
What about regional languages?

The Constitution does not provide for the official language of states. However, It says that :

  • The legislature of a state may adopt any one or more of the languages belonging to the state or Hindi as the official language of that state. Until then, English will continue as the official language of that state.
  • As a response to this the states have adopted the following regional languages as their official language:
    • Andhra Pradesh – Telugu
    • Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland – English
    • Jammu and Kashmir – Urdu (and not Kashmiri)
    • Goa – Marathi and Konkani
    • Gujarat – Hindi and Gujarati
    • Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, and Rajasthan – Hindi.
    • Odisha–Odia
    • West Bengal–Bengali
    • Assam–Assamese
    • Kerala–Malayalam
  • Note, there is no compulsion for the state to choose the language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Any two or more states are free to agree to use Hindi (instead of English) for communication between themselves
What is the language of Higher Judiciary?
  • Article 348(1)(a) states that unless Parliament by law provides otherwise, all proceedings before the Supreme Court and in every High Court shall be conducted in English.
  • Article 348(2) provides further that notwithstanding the provisions of Article 348(1), the Governor of a state may, with the previous consent of the President, authorize the use of Hindi or any other language used for any official purpose, in proceedings in the High Court
  • Therefore, the Constitution recognizes English as the primary language of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, with the caveat that when some other language is used in the proceedings of High Courts, judgments of the High Courts must be delivered in English.
  • Currently, the language of SC proceedings is English only All pleadings, documents and arguments in the Supreme Court are in English. Reasons for using English are:
    • Just like cases from all over the country come to the Supreme Court, judges and lawyers of the Supreme Court also come from all parts of India.
    • Judges can hardly be expected to read documents and hear arguments in languages with which they are not familiar.
    • Without the use of English, it would be impossible to discharge their duty. All judgments of the Supreme Court are also delivered in English.
  • Interestingly, bills have also been introduced in Parliament – the High Courts (Use of Official Languages) Bill, 2016 and the Supreme Court, High Courts and District Courts (Use of Official Languages) Bill, 2018 – to mandate the use of regional languages in courts including the Supreme Court, but so far nothing has come of these.
What has the Official Language Committee headed by Home Minister recommended in its latest (2021) report?

The contents of the Committee report are not in the public domain. However, sources close to the Committee said it has made around 100 recommendations, some of which are:

  • Hindi should be the medium of instruction in IITs, IIMs, and central universities in the Hindi-speaking states.
    • The Committee had certain parameters to assess the usage of language and it has found that in many central universities including Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, BHU, and AMU, the usage is just 25-35 per cent when it should have been 100 per cent
  • The language used for communication in the administration should be Hindi, and efforts should be made to teach the curriculum in Hindi, but the latter is not mandatory.
  • Lower courts in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Rajasthan already use Hindi.
  • High Courts in other states, where proceedings are recorded in English or a regional language can make available translations in Hindi, because verdicts of High Court of other states are often cited in judgments.
  • The panel is learnt to have taken a serious view of officers and other employees in the central government who do not use Hindi in Hindi-speaking states. The panel wants state governments to warn officials that their reluctance to use Hindi would reflect in their Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR)
  • Communication, which includes letters and emails, question papers for recruitment exams, events organised by the government and its departments, will have to be in Hindi.
  • It is also suggested that “there are specific proposals to make the language in official letters and invitations simpler.”
  • The crux of the recommendations is that “there should be a deliberate attempt to reduce the usage of the English language in official communication and to increase the usage of Hindi.
What are the concerns expressed against latest recommendations?
  • Attempts to promote Hindi have revived decades-old anxieties over the alleged imposition of Hindi.
  • Parliament has witnessed heated exchanges between the Treasury and Opposition, especially members from Tamil Nadu, over Union Ministers replying to questions in Hindi.
  • Over the past few years, Karnataka has seen protests over the use of Hindi in signboards and posters.
Are these recommendations intended for every state government, its institutions and departments across the country?
  • No, they are not
  • States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala are exempt as per The Official Languages Act, 1963 and the Rules and Regulations (of the Act), 1976. The law is implemented only in ‘A’ category states, in which the official language is Hindi.
  • According to the Rules, region ‘A’ includes the states of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, and the Union Territories of Delhi and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Region ‘B’ includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Punjab, and the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
  • Other states, where the use of Hindi is less than 65 per cent, are listed under region ‘C’.
  • The Committee has suggested that efforts should be made to use Hindi “100 per cent” in the ‘A’ states.
Is this the first time that such recommendations have been made?
  • The makers of the Constitution had decided that both Hindi and English should be used as official languages for the first 15 years of the Republic, but in the wake of intense anti-Hindi agitations in the south, the Centre announced that English would continue to be used even after 1965.
  • On January 18, 1968, Parliament passed the Official Language Resolution to build a comprehensive programme to increase the use of Hindi for official purposes by the Union of India.
  • With the active promotion of Hindi being mandated by Article 351 of the Constitution, the Official Language Committee was set up to review and promote the use of Hindi in official communications. The first Report of the Committee was submitted in 1987.
  • The ninth Report, submitted in 2011 by the panel headed by then Home Minister P Chidambaram, made 117 recommendations, including suggestions to increase the use of Hindi in computers in government offices.
    • The recommendations were criticised, and concerns were expressed in Tamil Nadu especially over the alleged “Hindi imposition”.
What does the new education policy say about teaching in Hindi and other regional languages?
  • The announcement of the new National Education Policy (NEP) in 2020 too had triggered controversy over this issue.
  • Politicians from Southern India had alleged attempts to “impose Hindi and Sanskrit”; however, the Centre had said it was only promoting regional languages.
  • The NEP says that mother tongue or the regional language would be the “preferred” mode of instruction until Class 5, and possibly Class 8.
  • The three-language formula will continue to be implemented while keeping in mind the need to promote multilingualism as well as promote national unity.
  • NEP also stated that there will be a greater flexibility inthe three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any State.
  • The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India.

Main Practice Question: How has federalism dealt with linguistic diversity in India especially in the context of demand for making Hindi as lingua franca of the country?

Note: Write answer his question in the comment section.

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