The recommendations of the Committee of Parliament on Official Language, headed by Union home minister Amit Shah, on the medium of instruction in higher education institutions and on the replacement of English by local languages in communications should be seen a long-term plan to position one language above all others, and thereby undermine the idea of India which is contingent on its diversity in languages, cultures, practices, beliefs and every human endeavour. It also seeks to force Indians to look inwards at a time its youth want to look outwards for options.
The recommendation of the committee that the medium of instruction in technical and non-technical higher education institutes such as IITs in Hindi-speaking states should be Hindi and in other parts of India the respective local language defies logic and reason. Since admissions to most of these institutions are conducted based on national-level competitive examinations, only a very few would be able to pursue their higher education in the language in which they studied till that point; the others will have to switch to a language of the place where the institution is situated. The committee would do well to explain the reason why it would want to throw the entire higher education system into such utter chaos.
In addition, such a move will forever close on those lucky Indians who get to study in higher educational institutions the window of opportunity to seek a livelihood anywhere in the world. Plus it will even be a tool of discrimination within India, too. A multinational company which employs products of IITs or other institutes of higher education from different states cannot be expected to run different language departments. It would rather go for a language which produces the maximum number of recruits. All languages except Hindi will be a loser in this zero sum game.
The 11th report of the committee, presented to President Droupadi Murmu last month, wants communication by Union government offices, ministries or departments to take place in Hindi or the local languages. This is in violation of the Official Languages Act, 1963, which emphasises that English will be an official language in all government business while ensuring an equal status to Hindi which is one of the 22 languages in Schedule Eight of the Constitution. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, had the insight to understand the need for a balanced approach to the official language issue and hence gave his assurance that English would remain a language of official communication till such time non-Hindi speakers desired it to be so. The panel must explain what the pressing need is to disregard his word.
There is merit in recommending that officers and employees in the Union government who deliberately do not work in Hindi in Hindi-speaking states be warned. But the report becomes discriminatory when it keeps mum over the need for officers and employees in the Union government to work in the local language in non-Hindi states.
The parliamentary panel seeks to pit the local languages against English by calling the latter an alien language. While local languages need to be encouraged as much as a possible, to call a language a large section of people are comfortable with alien reflects the poor understanding of the members of the committee on the way the earth turns. They will do better by future generations to open India to the world