Languages of India

  • IASbaba
  • December 3, 2022
  • 0
History and Art and Culture
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In News: The 11th volume of the Report of the Official Language Committee headed by Union Home Minister was submitted to President recently.

  • The committee recommended Hindi as the language of instruction and examinations in technical courses.
  • It has triggered angry reactions from the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, who have described the report as an attempt by the Union government to impose Hindi on non-Hindi-speaking states.


  • Language is an essential ingredient of identity.
  • The latest effort to impose Hindi raises once again the issue of cultural nationalism, quite retrogressively.
  • There is a need to recognize the complexity of the language landscape in India.

Languages of India:

  • As per 2011 Census, India has 123 major languages, of which 30 were spoken by more than a million native speakers.
  • Mother tongue survey of India- There are 19,500 “mother tongues” – including 103 foreign mother tongues.
  • English is used in higher education and in some areas of the Indian government.
  • Hindi is the most spoken mother tongue or primary language (43.6%) and serves as the lingua franca across much of north and central India.
  • Hindi is also the second most spoken language in the world, Bengali is at 7th and Punjabi at 10th.
  • Bengali is the second most spoken primary language (8%), with a significant number of speakers in eastern and northeaster regions.
  • Roughly, 12% of Indian speak local, least recognised languages
  • There is no official language of India.
  • India is home to the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families, two of the world’s largest.

Linguistic Plurality in India:

  • Languages in School: 58-69 different languages
  • Language of mass media: 87 languages, radio programs under govt in 24 languages and 146 dialects
  • Administrative languages: is mostly English and Hindi

Constitutional provisions on language:

  • Constituent Assembly: The question of expressing national identity in a linguistically diverse society anxious was debated by the Constitution-makers and even linked to national prestige.
  • The Eighth Schedule consists of the 22 languages from length and breadth of the country.
  • Article 345 allows the States to choose their official language. Practically, many states have chosen English.
  • Article 348 mandates English language in all proceedings in the Supreme Court and High Court, Bills, acts, amendments, ordinances, rules, etc., until Parliament by law provides otherwise.
  • Article 351 provides that it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of Hindi as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
  • The Official Languages Act, 1963 and its Rules provide for the continuation of English language for official purposes of the Union and for use in Parliament.

Challenges of single language:

  • In Education: Implications and practicality in terms of the availability of course material and of teachers qualified to communicate it adequately.
  • Competence of candidates undertaking examinations in Hindi language and competing in equal measure with those whose mother tongue it is.
  • Lack of proper curriculum
  • In Unity: SK Dhar Commission set up in 1948 argued against a linguistic basis of reorganisation of states, as it could lead to further division
  • Linguistic chauvinism i.e. exercising power and superiority of one language over others or having excessive pride in one’s own language which may breed resentment and division.
  • Economic implications: may reduce competitiveness in the job market since English is the global language

Suggestions for future:

  • National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, endorses teaching in mother tongues at least for primary classes.
  • PM Modi advocates medical education in mother tongue.
  • 11th volume of report of Official Language Committee recommends Hindi as the medium of instruction in all technical and non-technical institutions, while the regional language should be used in states where official language is not Hindi.
  • Due consideration to 8th schedule which recognizes the linguistic diversity of India.
  • Recognition of article 29, 30 of Indian constitution that places importance on protection and preservation of minority languages and culture.
  • Upholding spirit of cooperative federalism among centre and states by duly recognizing linguistic diversities.
  • Zonal and Interstate Councils can provide a fantastic forum for dialogue and discussion
  • The use of English services pragmatic and administrative purposes while promotion of Hindi should be non-coercive in nature.
  • Making a tolerant society by recognizing differences and variations.

Way forward:

  • Indian Union is an agglomeration of ethnolinguistic nationalities that have their own languages and cultures
  • The unity of India would be strengthened through the acceptance of regional ambitions.
  • All languages and mother tongues of India are a repository of its rich cultural heritage and must be encouraged and developed equally.

Source: PIB


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