Languages panel recommendations and a fresh 'Hindi imposition' row – The Indian Express

The 11th volume of the Report of the Official Language Committee headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, which was submitted to President Droupadi Murmu last month, 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.
Members of the Committee, however, argued that their reaction was “misplaced” because media reports on the purported contents of the Report were “misleading”. The Report submitted to the President is confidential, they said.
The Committee of Parliament on Official Language was set up in 1976 under Section 4 of The Official Languages Act, 1963. Section 4 of the Act says “there shall be constituted a Committee on Official language, on a resolution to that effect being moved in either House of Parliament with the previous sanction of the President and passed by both Houses”.
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, the Committee of Parliament on Official Language is constituted by the Home Ministry, and it does not, like the Committees of Parliament, submit its report to Parliament. Under the provisions of the 1963 Act, 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”.
What has the Shah panel recommended in its latest (2021) report?
The contents of the report submitted to President Murmu on September 9 by Shah and other members of the Committee are not in the public domain. Sources close to the Committee said it has made around 100 recommendations, including that Hindi should be the medium of instruction in IITs, IIMs, and central universities in the Hindi-speaking states. The 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.
“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,” a source said, referring to the recommendations.
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), the sources said.
“It is the Committee’s responsibility and role to see that the Hindi language is promoted in official communication, and there are recommendations to that effect. 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,” a source said.
The source added 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”, the source said. “Knowledge of Hindi would be compulsory in a number of government jobs,” he said.
Are these recommendations intended for every state government, its institutions and departments across the country?
“No, they are not,” senior BJD MP and deputy chairman of the Committee Bhartruhari Mahtab told The Indian Express. “The reaction of the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu appear to be based on misleading information, as some reports that appeared on the Committee’s recommendations were confusing,” Mahtab said.
According to Mahtab, “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. The medium of instruction in IITs, central universities, and Kendriya Vidyalayas in the ‘A’ states should be Hindi, while the regional language should be used in other states, the Committee is learnt to have recommended.
On the use of Hindi in government departments, Mahtab said: “The use of Hindi in Ministries like Defence and Home are 100 per cent but the Education Ministry has not yet come to that level. 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.”
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 Committee recommends that all Ministries/Departments should immediately provide facilities of bilingual computers and should train officials…so that they can work in Hindi also…,” the Chidambaram-led panel said. The recommendations were criticised, and concerns were expressed in Tamil Nadu especially over the alleged “Hindi imposition”.
With the BJP, considered a party of the Hindi heartland in the southern states, in power at the Centre, 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.
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.
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Liz MathewHave been in journalism covering national politics for 23 years. Have … read more


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