India: the role of Language policy in IT growth

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Oct 2 12:46:17 UTC 2007

Language policy's role in IT growth


Historical roots of the IT (information technology) industry lie in
state intervention, and its later development owes some degree to the
facilitative nature of state policies, writes Devesh Kapur in one of
the essays included in 'Globalization and Politics in India' edited by
Baldev Raj Nayar ( Kapur argues that it would be a
nuanced perspective to say that it was Rajiv Gandhi who, in the early
1980s, shifted the state's role from being custodial (and
protectionist) to promotional. "While this shift was certainly
important for IT growth, its effectiveness was shaped by certain
long-term developments in which the state had played a central role."
Such as what happened in the late 1950s when language policy was a
divisive issue, 'bringing the country to the brink of instability'.

India's Southern states feared that accepting Hindi as the national
language would ensure Northern political dominance, narrates the
author. "The compromise forged at Nehru's behest meant that, while
Hindi would remain the national language, it would not be imposed on
non-Hindi speaking states. Instead, English would henceforth enjoy the
status of the official language." Section 3 of the Official Languages
Act, 1963 is about the continuation of English for official purposes
of the Union and for use in Parliament. (For the avid, the site has more on our language policy.)

According to Kapur, the compromise that enshrined the language of 'the
just departed colonial power' demonstrated 'considerable statesmanship
on the part of India's political leadership'. As a result, over the
next few decades India could develop 'a large pool of human capital
that was versed in the English language, contributing to India's
comparative advantage in software and IT-enabled services…'

Worth a read.


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