Banglabhasa and National language

Sudip Bhattacharyya

This was written in Bangla by Atul Prasad Sen singing eons for India. India's National Anthem is also in Bangla and Bangla is the second-most spoken language in India. Can modern and aspiring Bharat regain its supreme position in the world, at the same time, neglecting Bangla and even discriminating against it?

Bangla, Hindi and other regional languages are all national languages. The avowed demand of the agitators for Central Services Aptitude Test reform is that there should be no systematic discrimination against Indian languages. This is indeed desirable in all respects. So why not Bangla and other languages in Schedule 8 have the same status as Hindi, as far as Central Govt. patronage is concerned and particularly in the Central Services Examination structure, at the same time removing all bias for English?

Crores of Rupees are spent on Hindi under Official Languages Act. Moreover, the Human Resource Development Ministry in its Modern Languages Development Annual Budget (2011-12) allotted (in Rs crore) 45, 21, 16 and 2 for Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Sindhi respectively whereas not one Rupee was given for Bangla.

Hindi as the Official Language was dictated and implemented by the then Parliament. Although in view of stiff opposition in non-Hindi speaking areas, the Parliament had to extend in 1965 the continuation of English alongside Hindi for official communications, it cannot really be said that the decision took into full consideration all the concerns of the non-Hindi speaking states. Equality of opportunity assumes a level playing field where the odds are also shared equally by everybody. Three language formula has not been implemented in Hindi speaking states; whereas non-Hindi people unless they neglect to learn their mother tongue, are required to bear a load of three languages.

Even taking the broadest definition of Hindi, it is spoken by about 40% people of India. Yet, Hindi for all practical purpose is treated as the only indigenous national language. This is a breach of the true spirit of federalism. This doesn't spell well for national unity. It is sad that Prime Minister Modi, in trying to popularize National Language, is focusing on Hindi at the expense of other regional languages and federalism. It is unfortunate that the language question has not been faced squarely. The problem is festering silently and might come to a point of explosion unless it is resolved in a true federal spirit which would mean not only not imposing Hindi but proactively pushing for development of all regional languages including Hindi more or less at the same pace.

Therefore, while English is to continue as Link language in the country, Hindi and all other state languages are to be accorded the status of Official Language in the respective states only and equal status in all communications and documentation at Centre. The Three Language formula will have to be rigorously enforced in Hindi-speaking states. Moreover, it is necessary, as voiced in the Parliament, that the civil services examination be conducted in every regional language as against English and Hindi at present. The allocation of fund for propagation of only Hindi, under Official Languages Act, may be discontinued and there is to be one fund for promotion of all languages to be shared equitably among the states.

Vol. 47, No. 20, Nov 23 - 29, 2014