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Modi’s new Politics over Hindi language

In ‘Modi Raj’, the top civil servants in India’s tortuous bureaucracy have been sent back to school. DMK chief M. Karunanidhi has given thumps down to the MHA order for priority to Hindi on official social media interactions and advised the prime minister to focus on development agenda. He thinks that, it’s a beginning to impose Hindi against one’s wish. Language has become politics for Modi, who spent years as a preacher with the RSS, they see Hindi as the true language of a powerful India. This is another way for Hindu dominance. Modi rarely speaks English in public (as he cannot speak it properly and his English accent creates blunder and sounds like Gujarati). No doubt, he is good speaker and orator but he has language restrictions. His Hindi is reasonably good.

Our country has 22 official languages; there are many question about Hindi’s dominance. Although Hindi and its numerous vernaculars are spoken by about 45 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people, there are hundreds of millions in the southern, eastern and remote northeast parts of the country who don’t speak Hindi at all. In recent years, as India has joined the globalised economy, English has become increasingly important beyond the urban elite. Today, about 10 per cent of the country is thought to be proficient in English. This would be seen as an attempt to treat non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens. Anyways, Modi was speaking about development and good governance but suddenly he raised language issue which is beyond understanding. All well-wishers want Modi to focus on economic and social development, language battlefields are not yet ready. History has recorded anti-Hindi agitation. Can we forget Nehru’s assurance that English would be official language as long as non-Hindi speakers want? Karunanidhi is the first to attack the Centre over its order promoting Hindi. Following the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also accepted Hindi as the preferred language, asking the bureaucrats and departments concerned to use it to in official communication. In fact, the Centre has directed all the states, except the AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu, to correspond with it in Hindi. The order is likely to create problems for many states, particularly the southern states. Most of the South Indians find Hindi as difficult language to converse and correspondent with.

Initially, speaking Hindi will be difficult for non-Hindi people but it is a very easy language and is almost spoken in every part of India. It will not take much time for the bureaucrats to catch up. It’s true that most of the bureaucrats are corrupt, money and power hungry, but they are brilliant people. They are wasting money, entertaining themselves but are not inefficient. They are pretending to be inefficient because they know that nobody will harm their career. Once they are made to understand that they can be booted out for non-performance or jailed for betraying the nation, the country will see their intelligence and efficiency. Most of the bureaucrats are spending their evenings frantically looking up for words after Modi declared that all official documents must be written in Hindi. While, many bureaucrats speak the language, few know the formal phrases needed for official communication.

Modi’s campaign promises included a vow to crack the whip on Delhi’s gigantic and slow-moving bureaucracy, but the language shift is also clearly part of an outsider’s attempt to etch his own imprint on the political culture of the Indian capital. Many of Modi’s early decisions have sent ripples of unease through the ranks of India’s powerful civil servants, threatening to upend this city’s long-established pecking order. Another early signal came within days of Modi’s inauguration, when Indian news outlets reported that the government had asked for a list of bureaucrats who belonged to New Delhi’s golf clubs. The recent election brought seismic political changes to the capital, with the overwhelming majority gained by Modi’s BJP all but wiping away the nearly six decades of dominance by the Congress party— traditionally dominated by those who spoke English at home— which had shaped Delhi’s bureaucratic landscape.

India’s civil service, a collection of state and national agencies that totals some 6.5 million people, was the proud ”steel frame” that helped govern the vast subcontinent during British colonial rule. Indian families look up to their children passing the arduous entry examinations to join the exclusive ranks of civil servants. For the senior civil servants, the sudden language shift is an added burden. In its directive to the departments under it, the home ministry has said that all work should be done in Hindi. It has also asked the bureaucrats to give dictations in Hindi. To encourage work in Hindi, the government has promised rewards to the bureaucrats who use the language maximum in their work. I think that this will not work well as India is country of many languages and calling one particular language as national language won’t be fair.

Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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