GS Paper 2:
Topics Covered: Important Constitutional Amendments.
Remarks by a Hindi actor to the effect that Hindi is the national language of India sparked a controversy recently over the status of the language under the Constitution.
Is there any national language?
The Constitution of India has not given any language a national status.
What is the 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.
- In the constituent assembly discussions, it was decided 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 and the use of the Devanagari form of numbers for specified purposes.
It is the Union government’s duty to promote the spread of Hindi so that it becomes “a medium of expression for all elements of the composite culture of India” and also to assimilate elements of forms and expressions from Hindustani and languages listed in the Eighth Schedule.
Why was there opposition to the imposition of Hindi?
- The Official Languages Act, 1963 was passed in anticipation of the expiry of the 15-year period during which the Constitution originally allowed the use of English for official purposes.
- Its operative section provided for the continuing use of English, notwithstanding the expiry of the 15-year period.
- Jawaharlal Nehru had given an assurance in 1959 that English would remain in official use and as the language of communication between the Centre and the States.
- The Official Languages Act, 1963, did not explicitly incorporate this assurance, causing apprehensions in some States as the January 1965 deadline neared.
- At that time, PM Lal Bahadur Shastri reiterated the government’s commitment to move towards making Hindi the official language for all purposes.
- It created an apprehension that Hindi would be imposed in such a way that the future employment prospects of those who do not speak Hindi will be bleak.
Imposing the Hindi language:
- Can affect the learning ability of non-Hindi speakers thereby affecting their self-confidence.
- Can also threaten other languages and reduce diversity.
- Could also threaten the diversity and federalism of India.
What is the three-language formula?
Since the 1960s, the Centre’s education policy documents speak of teaching three languages — Hindi, English and one regional language in Hindi-speaking States, and Hindi, English and the official regional language in other States.
- In practice, however, only some States teach both their predominant language and Hindi, besides English.
- In States where Hindi is the official language, a third language is rarely taught as a compulsory subject.
- Which states in India have the provision of optional use of Hindi in Court proceedings?
- What is the Eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution?
- What is Article 348 related to?
- Governors’ powers to authorise the use of Hindu in High Court proceedings.
- Who can add or remove languages from the 8th schedule?
- Overview of the Official Languages Act of 1963.
Discuss why the government should consider amending the Official Languages Act of 1963 to include more vernacular languages in governance, and not just confine it to Hindi and English.
Sources: the Hindu.