More on 3-language formula in Indian railways

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat May 19 14:40:26 UTC 2007

Lalu reverses three-language order on train boards

Web posted at: 5/18/2007 8:20:44

New Delhi Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav [...] did a sharp U-turn
yesterday after announcing the withdrawal of a controversial railway order
about usage of the third language on train name and destination boards.
Lalu Prasad, who announced the withdrawal of a railway circular directing
that names of trains should be written in Hindi and English on all trains
except in Tamil Nadu, where it could be written also in Tamil along with
English and Hindi, later said he could not withdraw it as it was based on
a law adopted by parliament. He said he would call an all-party meeting to
take a decision on it.

The Lok Sabha proceedings were adjourned abruptly in the pre-lunch session
after the commotion over the order, but when the house met again the
railway minister assured that it would be withdrawn. But later he said:
"Although I have announced the immediate withdrawal of the circular, I
learnt that it was issued under an act of parliament.  Since it is based
on a law adopted by parliament for applying the three-language formula in
Tamil Nadu, we have to support it. " "Don't take it otherwise and create a
dispute," he pleaded, adding he would call a meeting of all party leaders
to decide on "how three-language formula can be utilised to respect the
languages of all states, because this is the law and I would not like to
withdraw it (circular)."

The MPs belonging to both opposition and ruling party were agitated over
the railway order. Raising the issue in the zero hour, Braj Kishore
Tripathy of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) said quoting the circular: "The
(railway) Board has decided that all destination boards of trains shall be
written or painted or printed in Hindi and English languages only.
However, trains based for primary maintenance in coaching depots located
in Tamil Nadu state, the destination boards may also be written in the
regional language that is Tamil besides English and Hindi." Tripathi
pointed out that the government has been following a three-language policy
for the railways and sought an explanation from the government over the

Angry over the order, MPs from West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra
immediately stood up and started shouting at the treasury benches. Speaker
Somnath Chatterjee also said the feelings of all sections of the house
"cannot be ignored" and the established three-language practice should be
followed. The house was adjourned at 12.25 pm till 1 pm after MPs
belonging to various parties objected to the alleged railway order. When
the house met at 1 pm, Lalu Prasad came to the house and announced that he
would withdraw the order so as to avoid hurting anybody's sentiments. But
he was sent a note by the officials that the order could not be withdrawn
by a statement and needed parliament's nod to do so.


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