Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flaws with the 3 language formula

Mr Sibal, looks like this isn't your cuppa. First the faux pas with the 3 language formula, and now the problems with the 80% cut off for the IIT-JEE. Let me very categorically state that I don't mind the cut-off formula since it's a sure shot way of getting students to study for their boards, and then concentrate for the IIT entrance exams, which would automatically help in limiting the IIT tuition cartels, which seem to be running riots, especially in parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, and UP. The cut-off could be lowered a little for starters, and then maybe it can be moved up. In any case, my grouse at the moment isn't with that, but with your 3 language formula.

Mr Sibal recently proposed a 3-language formula to bridge the language divide in India. So according to this plan, a child growing up will have to learn English, Hindi, and one south Indian language. When I heard that the first time I couldn't stop laughing through my backside. I mean, come on! English, Hindi, and one south Indian language of my choice! "What's the logic?" you may ask, as did I. Well, according to the minister, they seem to be doing this so that all Indians can have a 'link' language - meaning some language that all of us can understand, which can 'link' the divide that presently exists between north and south when it comes to language. OK, good, but why three? Fine, I understand that making everyone learn only one language will kill off all other languages, and as a firm believer that the variety of languages in our country is one of the most endearing aspects of our culture, speaking volumes about the culture and heritage of this land, we need to preserve the languages. But why the hell three?

It's quite obvious that English + the language of the state you're residing in should suffice. English can serve as the 'link' language, while the knowledge of the state language (usually, in most cases, this would be the mother tongue of the person as well) would help in preserving the language. So why does Hindi need to be fitted into this when everything seems to be fine? Throwing Hindi into this perfect formula is only a ploy to get everyone to learn Hindi for some unknown reason, and according to Mr Sibal, "... should be done in Hindi which is the national language thus Hindi can be also be used to achieve national integrity". Well, firstly, Hindi is not the national language, it's a national language, and don't we have national integrity today irrespective of whether or not all of us know Hindi? Also, this stupid thing about "and one South Indian language"...what's that for? Because we'll (south Indians) feel bad that we are being made to learn Hindi, but they don't know our language? Utter stupidity! If a north Indian learns Malayalam, and comes to Karnataka, AP, or TN, what good is Malayalam going to do? It's a waste of his time having learnt that language. Instead, if he/she knows English and Hindi, and a south Indian knows English and whichever state language he/she is from, English could bridge the language divide, and the additional language they know can be used wherever applicable.

I personally believe that pushing in Hindi is to deal with a fragile sense of nationalism that many Indians have. It's the old bogey of 'foreign versus indigenous' - learning English, which is a foreign language, over Hindi, is seen by many not-too-bright Hindi speakers as 'anti-Indian' (actually it's unfair to call out only the Hindi speakers because the same logic is used by countless others as well to suit their needs). Sadly, a lot of people from the Hindi belt seem to equate learning and being able to speak and understand Hindi to being Indian, and so by default, a lot of South Indians aren't 'Indians' according to Hindi speakers. This fragile sense of patriotism and nationalism is to me the sole reason why people fail to see the elephant in the room - English is the link language, damn it! Why does everyone need Hindi???

Also consider the fact that if the 3 language formula is implemented, that would mean extra teachers - one for English, one for Hindi, one for third language. As it is, there are lakhs of govt. teachers who haven't been paid their salaries for months if not years, and yet these poor souls continue to toil and try to impart a decent education to children in rural areas. The govt. would be better off paying them their salaries first, rather than allocate money from an already stretched economy due to drought and the recent floods to create new positions and hunt for teachers who can teach the new languages. The 2 language formula is a far more economical option and can bear fruition faster, and also has a much higher % of success.

I'm still pretty sure that there would be a lot of people who still wouldn't have seen the logic in the above analysis, so let me give a few facts, picked straight from the great book itself (The Constitution), but before that, let's also get a couple of definitions clear:

Official language: Language used for official communications and directives given by the government to its various arms and agencies. Also, an official language needs to be approved by law in order to become a national language (by the way, the Supreme Court works only in English).

National language: A language that defines a people in a territory and is indicative of the culture and history of the region. A national language can become an official language by default. This, however, doesn't mean that an official language can automatically become the ek matr rashtra bhasha. Also, the 8th schedule of the great book (Constitution) also declares that there are 22 national languages - not 1, not 2, but 22, in the country. Source.

According to the great book, in article 343:

343. Official language of the Union.

  1. The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
  2. Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement: Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.
  3. Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of-
  4. 1. the English language, or 2. the Devanagari form of numerals, for such purposes as may be specified in the law.
Please note, after 15 years from 1950, Lal Bahadur Shastri tried to impose Hindi on all Indians - there were protests all over south India, especially the Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu). Finally, Shastri saw logic in keeping the country united rather than divide it on the issue of language and went ahead and allowed English to be used in other areas - courts, and more importantly, the civil services (especially the exams).

Note the highlighted portion - no where does it say Hindi is the ek matr rashtra bhasha, only official, and going by the definition above, you'd be wise to think that that would settle the issue. But no, the Hindi premis will have nothing of it. According to them, since most Indians speak and understand Hindi, it should be made the rashtra bhasha. Here's my reply to that: Using the same logic, most Indians are Hindus, let's make everyone a Hindu, that way we won't have communal clashes. And also, again, going by the same 'numbers' logic, the crow should be the national bird, and the street dog our national animal.

I'm not going to go into the benefits of knowing English over Hindi in today's competitive, globalised world, where international business is almost always carried out in English. So there, I hope that settles the issue. I know this is wishful thinking, but hey, at least I did my part to try to explain the foolishness of trying to make everyone learn Hindi instead of English. I just hope someone who's very stubborn sees the logic in this argument, goes ahead and implements the change (if need be) as a 2 language formula, and settles the issue once and for all.
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