The report of the parliamentary committee on official languages that has created a political controversy over fears of Hindi imposition, does not actually impose the language on non-Hindi speaking regions, and is in keeping with the tenets laid down by the New Education Policy, according to two lawmakers in the committee.

The report of the committee, headed by Union home minister Amit Shah, has recommended that India’s scheduled languages, including Hindi , get priority in public offices, higher education institutions such as IITs and IIMs, and in local courts (but not high courts). The panel has also noted that in most public institutions, the use of Indian languages is unsatisfactory, the two added, asking not to be named.

The committee’s report, submitted to President Droupadi Murmu on October 9, paves the way for wider use of Indian languages as medium of education, for office work and proceedings of lower courts. “Simply put, a student of IIT Kanpur can study in Hindi while IIM Sambalpur will teach in Odia too. A government employee in Andhra Pradesh can submit his leave application in Telugu. For years, English was the primary medium of education. Now, English will only be optional,” said a senior MP who is a member of the panel.

This means higher education institutions will have to mandatorily offer courses in Hindi or the local language (as the case may be). They can also offer them in English.

According to the report and the two members, the use of Hindi will be compulsory in Region A, as defined in the Official Languages Act of 1963. Under the law, states have been divided into three categories depending on the number of people who speak Hindi. Region A includes Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and the Union Territories of Delhi and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

“In these states (and UTs), we have reiterated that Hindi should be compulsory in all public institutions including educational bodies such as IITs, IIMs, kendriya vidyalayas and central universities, courts and government offices. The mandatory use of Hindi, however, doesn’t cover the Category B and C states where it is not the staple language in everyday lives,” said one of the two members.

Tamil Nadu has always been outside the ambit of the language law.

“To give an example, IIT Guwahati must teach in Assamese or Hindi. Similarly, IIM Joka will offer management courses in Bengali or Hindi,” added the first parliamentarian. Both will also offer courses in English.

The second lawmaker told HT that the panel found several gaps in the use of scheduled languages. ” In education institutes (in the relevant regions), the usage of Hindi was not more than 30%. In the Union government, only the ministry of home affairs and defence are doing 100% work in Hindi. Institutions such as ISRO use Hindi in 98% of its work.”

“We found that in top universities such as BHU, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, and Jamia Milia Islamia— all falling in Region A — the use of Hindi was abysmal,” the second person added.

However, for government use, the use of Hindi or a local language, while not mandatory, may not exactly be optional, if the report’s recommendations are implemented.

If an officer uses English in official documents or communications, they should be asked why they did not use Hindi or the local language, the report suggests. And, the continued use of English should be noted in their permanent records.

The committee’s report, the two lawmakers said, reiterates the requirement of the Official Languages Act of 1963 but also takes into account the focus on Indian languages in the New Education Policy.

The New Education Policy, approved by the Centre in 2020, puts focus on students’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction even as it sticks to the so-called ”three-language formula”, while emphasising that no language will be imposed on anyone. The three languages are English, Hindi, and the local language of the region.

“Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language, mother tongue, local language or the regional language. Thereafter, the home or local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible,” NEP stated.

Region B comprises Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli; Region C comprises states and Union Territories other than those included in categories A and B .

“ Region B is defined as states with up to 80% use of Hindi and Region C are those with up to 65% use of Hindi. In these states, public offices, institutes of higher education and local courts should use either Hindi or the regional language,” said the second lawmaker.

The Amit Shah-led committee, however, maintained that high court proceedings and judgments can be done in English as their verdicts have larger ramifications across the country.

The committee is the only parliamentary panel that is headed by Union home minister, and unlike all House committees that submit report to Parliament, it presents its report directly to the President.

A third member of the panel underlined the importance of the committee and its recommendations, saying, “It’s a unique committee. Nowhere in the world, you can find a committee on official languages that reports to the President of the country.”

By Shadab

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