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The Politics Of Language August 6, 2014

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Desi Indian, Language, News and Current Affairs, Politics.
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A couple of months back, I filed for an Right To Information (RTI) application, seeking information on cases of Domestic Violence and the (un)successful passage through Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDA) that most women go through. It opened up a Pandora’s box of mail!

Everyday I receive about 10-15 mails from Public Information Officers(PIOs) of various districts across India, the Women and Child welfare Ministries of the respective states, and PIOs of courts clarifying on my queries that were directed at them. While it is heartening to see that India believes in RTI, and the system strives to provide information to an ordinary citizens like me, the huge barrage of snail mails that arrive at my door-step, written in chaste Hindi is mind-boggling.

Vadivelu Comedian

Politicians – Where do these people come up with such ideas? அடப்பாவிகளா !
ரூம் போட்டு யோசிப்பீங்களோ?

Communicating the information that I sought for in English, in a language that I am not proficient at, is like giving me zero information.

With only primary school-level knowledge of Hindi, that taught me “कौवा बर्तन में पत्थर फेंके” (And the crow threw stones into the pot), endowed with the grand illusion that I can read and write Hindi hasn’t got me far with these mails.  That makes me wonder if an Indian from the north of Vindhyas would take a response to an RTI query about Tamil Nadu, in Tamil – Just wondering….

No, I am not a big fan of these language politics. It is so annoying when these leaders and politicians spend so much time talking about language and its superiority – one over the other. To me every language is important. It’s a medium of communication. Language is what socially evolved homo-sapiens use to communicate to get things done. Beyond that, singing lofty paeans of any one language of the sub-continent(including those on English…and yeah English is so very Indian now) is a luxury only a few have – that’s a different category of people. So all kudos to them for making a living out of it.

For the rest of ordinary folks like me, there are so many other things to break your head over to make a living. The least I expect is to be able to communicate with the other person in a language that establishes trust, reduces anxiety, and ensures that mutual objectives are met…and transactions – financial, emotional, personal or whatever you want to categorize them into – are completed.

So, when I read about this UPSC exam fiasco, and the government wanting to make it easy for aspirants to take the UPSC exam by reducing the relevance of comprehension in English, in what is being dubbed as creating a level playing field. I was completely stumped.  But then why have the English paper which is anyway not going to be added for merit, is a different issue altogether.

How can a bureaucratic public servant be one, without knowing how to communicate or comprehend in the only language that is binding this country?

Hypothetically, will that mean that all deputations and transfers of civil servants of the Union will now be within the State that they hail from?  Will public servants from other states be forced to learn the language of the State, before a transfer is effected? Since their jobs as servants of the Union are transferable to any part of the nation, should they learn to communicate and comprehend in all the 22 official languages, since English is now not sacrosanct? Does that imply that only linguists can aspire for these positions? Is that a level playing field that this Government is creating in right earnest? What about those from the North-East – most of them speak English and that’s their language of communication. That’s a huge barrage of questions that go without answers.

Adding to this misery is another group of aspirants who are asking for the numerical and logical aptitude tests to be scrapped, since they say that it gives an undue advantage to Engineering and science students. Why do these people want to write something that they are not willing to put an effort into?  Will the BJP government at the center oblige to this populist agenda as well, because it’s the language card that can come handy during assembly elections in the northern belt?

What does this imply? – That the future bureaucracy which is expected to take decisions based on data presented to them in English, will not be equipped to comprehend English, will not have logical or numerical aptitude, BUT will have the power to control the lives of so many citizens of this country, who are way too ahead of them?

As of now, it was okay to have a mediocre, uneducated and wily politician to be representing us, because there was a bureaucracy which was smart enough to fill the gaps and run the machinery.

Now the people in power have become so wily that they’ve finally realized that they don’t control anything ABSOLUTELY, unless the bureaucrat is mediocre and can be controlled. Are they using their executive power to create a bureaucracy which will be unable to question them, because of lack of basic comprehension? Is this a systemic cleansing of all things that challenge a ruthless politician?

Do all these people sit together and discuss how to create a society that can bury itself down in the next 5-10 years?

I am wondering in comedian Vadivelu style, “அடப்பாவிகளா ! ரூம் போட்டு யோசிப்பீங்களோ?” (“Ada paavigala! Room pottu yosipeengalo? “) No translations for this…Tamil certainly is a rich language that a literal translation of these remarks would remove the very flavour of it. 

What’s becoming of India, my country!

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