Saturday, January 2, 2010

A word a day

When India became a republic in 1950, the Constitution of India did not mention anything about a national language. It was an issue that had many of the members of the Constituent Assembly take strong positions; ultimately the Munshi-Ayyangar formula paved the way for Hindi to be declared as the 'Official Language' with English as an associate Official Language for a period of fifteen years. The idea was to use that period to help all non-Hindi speakers learn the language and acquire some degree of expertise with it. The first Official Languages Commission's report recommended a step-by-step to eventually replace English and establish Hindi as the only Official Language, if not as the 'National Language'. However, violent reactions against the report led to Jawaharlal Nehru declaring that English could continue as the associate, additional Official Language for as long as the non-Hindi speaking people wanted it.

In 1963, the Official Languages Act was passed. Under that act, and its subsequent amendments, India continues to have both Hindi and English as the Official Languages of the Union - and any of the 21 other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution can also be used to transact the business of the Union. In offices of the central government and almost all central public-sector units, it is Hindi which is being taught in various ways to those who are non-native speakers of the language. One such measure is the 'Word-a-Day'; it has been around for nearly 20 years now. The day's Hindi word is displayed at several places within the office and is expected to be used in conversation during the day.

And what's the word I chanced to see a few weeks ago? One that has been the casualty in disagreements about the national / official language!

No comments: