Centre's bid to impose Hindi in educational institutions leaves students anxious

A panel led by Amit Shah has recommended that even the lexicon of all recruitment examinations should be restructured to include Hindi and eliminate English as the primary medium

Amit Shah attending an event to promote  Hindi (File photo: Twitter/@surbhig_)
Amit Shah attending an event to promote Hindi (File photo: Twitter/@surbhig_)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

A panel led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently recommended that Hindi should be the primary and “official” medium of instruction in all technical and non-technical educational institutes across India.  
The technical institutes include Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of management (IIMs), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs), Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs).  
Shah had originally proposed this to President Droupadi Murmu last month in the form of a report compiled by the Committee of Parliament on Official Language headed by Shah himself. The report suggests that English should be kept as an optional medium of instruction and employed as primary “only when absolutely necessary” – otherwise substituted with Hindi for all subjects.  
Inevitably, this proposition raised several questions, most significantly around the future of the various Central examinations which have historically been conducted in English.  

The Shah-led panel suggested that even the lexicon of all recruitment examinations should be restructured to include Hindi and eliminate English as the primary medium.  

“In many recruitment examinations, Hindi medium option is not available and English-language question paper is compulsorily included. In this situation, the candidate gives preference to English over Hindi. Therefore, mandatory English-language question papers should be discontinued and Hindi options be given. Requisite knowledge of Hindi for the selection of employees should be ensured and in the recruitment examinations, the question paper of Hindi should mandatorily be included in place of English,” the report said.  
The Central government’s attempt to impose Hindi as a “common language” – which should be learnt and perfected by the mass of the country – has largely been perceived as an attempt to invoke a sense of nationalism, rather than a way to reinstate the importance of the language.  

It is also being observed as a breach of the diverse social fabric of our nation, particularly detrimental for non-Hindi speaking states.  
The Shah-led panel’s proposition has created apprehension as well as anxiety amidst students, school and college-going alike, about the future of their education and career in this country.  
“If Hindi becomes the official language now while I have studied in English throughout my life so far, how will I manage to clear any exam or secure a seat in any college in this country? This is outrageous and has led to immense uncertainty for me and my classmates. We will all have to apply for education abroad then,” says Rida Shaik, a final-year school student from Maharashtra.  

Similarly, a graduate student and UPSC aspirant from Maharashtra finds this report to be confusing and demoralising for students preparing for competitive exams. “The UPSC examination system of India, recognising the plurality of our country, conducts examinations in Hindi and English so as to keep it as inclusive as possible. However, the new Hindi rule is not just a tyrannical imposition of a language but is also an antecedent for chaos. A large number of candidates choose English as their medium, which provides room for students from non-Hindi speaking states to appear for these examinations. Imposing Hindi for all Central government institutions (and examinations for them) will create massive confusion,” she said.  
Among a total of 100 recommendations, the report also prescribes that government officials in Hindi-speaking states, as per the Official Languages Act of 1963, should communicate only in Hindi. “The committee has found that some officers or employees don’t work in Hindi. So those officials should be given a warning and an explanation should be sought from them. If satisfactory reply is not received, it should be recorded in their Annual Performance Assessment Report,” reads the report.     
Meanwhile, the first execution of this plan is set to arrive on October 16 as Shah launches the Hindi versions of first year MBBS books in Bhopal. With this, Madhya Pradesh will become the first Hindi-speaking state to institutionalise the recommendations of the report.  

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan proclaimed this initiative as something that should ‘bring pride and joy to students’.  
“The translations come at a time when medical seats are anyway scanty and this move will further rob students of crucial opportunities. Further, some medical and anatomy English words have no possible translation in Hindi. It will be strange to see how an entire medical book can be translated into a vernacular language,” a former doctor and social activist from Bhopal said.  
Leaders from the southern part of the country, including M.K. Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan, and H.D. Kumaraswamy have denounced Shah’s proposition as an attempt to further promote the Centre’s ‘one nation, one religion and one language policy’.  

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Published: 13 Oct 2022, 6:41 PM