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Language issue puts government in silent mode

Vinay Kumar

Home Ministry in a fix over evolving criteria to deal with requests to bring more languages under 8th Schedule


22 languages have already been granted this status since Independence

Proposal to include more languages may make matters difficult for RBI, UPSC


New Delhi: The issue of language appears to have put the government in silent mode. The Union Home Ministry is in a fix over evolving criteria to deal with a large number of requests from various quarters, to bring more languages under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

Premier central bodies like the Reserve Bank of India and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), are finding it difficult to accept fresh proposals to include more languages under the ambit of the 8th Schedule. Granting this status to a language entails mentioning the denomination on currency notes in this language and including it in the UPSC examinations.

The dilemma of the Union Home Ministry is not difficult to understand: it is burdened with 38 new requests for inclusion. These are in addition to the 22 languages that have already been granted this status since Independence.

While the RBI has still not been able to accommodate all the 22 languages on currency notes, the UPSC has conveyed to the Home Ministry that it was finding it hard to conduct competitive examinations in all of them. Including 38 additional languages was not a very comforting thought for them. Finding experts for so many languages and then conducting examinations on an all India-basis was an impossible task, sources in the Home Ministry said.

The RBI is learnt to have cited “administrative difficulties” in printing the denomination in so many languages. Sources said fulfilling the Constitutional provision of mentioning the value in 60 languages (if the government clears all the 38 new proposals), would lead to confusion as the size of the notes would have to be redrawn, making them unusually large.

Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken said the Centre was committed to giving due recognition to all the languages through a proper mechanism of evaluation. The most important part is to differentiate between a language and a dialect. There should be proper guidelines to determine a language’s status, he said.

The UPSC is bound on three counts in respect of the inclusion of a language in the 8th Schedule. Firstly, it has to be added to the civil services examinations schedule. Secondly, it has to give an optional paper in this language, and thirdly, it would have to provide an option to the candidates to be interviewed in the particular language.

At the time of Independence only 14 languages were included. The number went up in 1967 when Sindhi was added to the list. The government was flooded with more such demands as politics based on religion, region and languages overshadowed national issues, the sources said.

The number rose to 18 in 1992 when Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added to the list. Four more languages: Dogri, Bodo, Maithali and Santhali were included in 2004.

The Centre is also under pressure to include Bhojpuri, spoken across the Hindi belt in U.P. and Bihar, and Rajasthani.

The MPs from these States have been raising the issue in the two Houses of Parliament for the past few years. Although it is a foreign language, English also figures in the 38 pending requests.

The Centre has so far not taken any decision on the recommendations made by the Sitakant Mohapatra Committee in 2004, on fixing criteria for the inclusion of languages in the 8th Schedule.

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