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30th November 2022 (8 Topics)

Difficulty in settling the language for cooperative federalism

Context

With the recent announcement regarding the adoption of Hindi and local languages as a medium of Instruction in Educational Institutions, it still remains a subject of debate as India is a country with many languages and ethnicities in a similar State.

Let us analyse this idea with a dual perspective.

About

  • Over 700 languages are spoken in India. However, India has no national language.
  • As per the 8th schedule of Indian constitution, there are 22 official languages that are given official acknowledgement and support.
  • Article 343 of the Constitution of India stated that the official language of the Union is Hindi in Devanagari script, with official use of English to continue for 15 years from 1947.
  • Later, a constitutional amendment, The Official Languages Act, 1963, allowed for the continuation of English alongside Hindi in the Indian government indefinitely until legislation decided to change it.

The Official Language of a State:

  • Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the official language in Articles 343 to 351.
  • Article 345of the Constitution says “the Legislature of a State may by law adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the State or Hindi as the language or languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes of that State”.

Conflicts between the Centre and States on Official language:

  • The Centre on its recommendation for issuing use of Hindi as a language of offices and working in Non-Hindi Speaking States has been, that Article 344(3) stipulates that ‘the just claims and interests of persons belonging to the non-Hindi speaking areas in regard to the public services’ shall be considered by the President.
  • Though, it is not-binding for the Non-Hindi speaking States.

Constitutional Provisions for Language in India:

  • The Constitutional provisions relating to the Eighth Schedule occur in Article 344 (1) and 351 of the Constitution.
  • The languages listed under Eighth Schedule are:
  • Assamese,
  • Bengali,
  • Gujarati,
  •  Hindi,
  • Kannada,
  • Kashmiri,
  • Konkani,
  • Malayalam,
  • Manipuri,
  • Marathi,
  • Nepali,
  • Oriya,
  • Punjabi,
  • Sanskrit,
  • Sindhi,
  • Tamil,
  • Telugu,
  • Urdu
  • Bodo,
  • Santhali,
  • Maithili and
  • Dogri.
  • Languages are added through Constitutional Amendments.

Need for a single Official language:

  • To ensure Cooperative Federalism in the country.
  • To make the working among the departments easier.
  • To Strengthen Centre-State relations.
  • To maintain law and order.

Recent Developments:

  • SWAYAM,an open online courses platform of the Central government, has been offering some popular courses in Indian languages too.

Ten States have accepted Indian languages such as Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, and Bengali as the medium of instruction for engineering courses.

  • National Education policy, 2020:
    • To Increase GER to 50 % by 2035: NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.
    • Promoting Regional languages in higher education: NEP provides a framework for the education sector but is not binding on the States.
    • Medical Education Minister of Madhya Pradesh has announced that the state government would soon launch a MBBScourse in Hindi medium.

Associated Challenges:

  • Insignificant for Institutions with Pan-India Admissions: A regional language focus is not meaningful in a scenario where the institutes see entrants from across the country such as IITs.
  • Availability of Quality Material in Regional Languages: Another challenge is the availability of study material such as textbooks and scholarly literature.
  • Also, quality control of these translations will be of utmost importance to keep semantic irregularities at bay.
  • Availability of Faculty: Given the English-medium legacy of higher education in India, attracting and retaining quality teachers who are willing and able to teach in regional languages will be a challenge.
  • Maintaining Pace with Global Standards: Delivering technical courses in regional languages may prevent students from competing in global labour and education markets, where fluency in English yields a distinct edge.
  • A lack of opportunities for Indian students at the international level may prove counterproductive to the NEP, 2020’s aim of bridging the gap between elites and the rest.
  • It also goes against the vision of promoting the internationalization of education.
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