Karnataka: Tackling drought more important than language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Jul 10 17:21:42 UTC 2008

Karnataka: Tackling drought more important

Crops have failed in the state and the rainfall has been scanty.
Against 250 mm, the state has received only 195 mm of rainfall. It is
drought-hit. The drought monitoring cell has submitted a detailed
report to the government on the subject..
CJ: S Shivakumar, merinews ,

THE GOVERNMENT of Karnataka would seek a stay from the Supreme Court
on the recent High Court verdict on medium of instruction in the
state's schools (vide, "Can government impose the medium of
instruction", dated July 3, 2008), according to the state's chief
minister, B S Yeddyurappa (BSY). The decision was arrived at after the
government had discussions with litterateurs, legal experts,
pro-Kannada organisations and opposition leaders. The consensus that
emerged was that the High Court verdict was a blow to the state's
language policy and had to be contested at the apex court. All the
participants at the meeting opined that the High Court verdict was
against the 1994 Supreme Court verdict on the subject (of medium of


Several writers such as G.S. Shivarudrappa, U.R. Ananthamurthy, M.
Chidananda Murthy and D. Javare Gowda who attended the meeting
observed that it was not the question of language, but of education.
The High Court ruling would create disparities between government and
unaided schools. While government and aided schools would have to
follow the language policy, unaided schools could teach in English.
This would go against the intention of the government to put in place
a uniform primary education system.

Legal experts on the other hand said that the government should also
instil confidence into parents and students that employment
opportunities would not elude those who studied in the Kannada medium.
Senior advocate Hemalatha Mahishi opined that if the state issued an
ordinance against this verdict, then it would have to endure a fresh
legal battle. The state government could surely get a stay order
against the verdict if it was clear in its approach.

The 1994 government order stated that elementary education should be
in the child's mother tongue or Kannada. If the government rephrased
the order by replacing the word 'Kannada' with the phrase 'state
language', the government stood a better chance. Apart from the
language policy, the general opinion was also that Kannada should be
implemented as the administrative language so IAS, IPS and IFS
officers were forced to learn the language. Efforts should be made to
remove the inferiority complex in Kannadigas who shied away from using
their mother tongue. Earlier, the advocate general too had advised
that the state should appeal to the Supreme Court.

The stand of the respected writers and other worthies is amusing, to
say the least. No doubt, the High Court ruling would create
disparities between government and aided schools. But are not these
disparities government-made? Why did the government have to give rise
to disparities in the first place? If the government suitably modified
the language policy, government and aided schools could teach in
English too, like the unaided schools. This would also be in line with
the government's intention of evolving a uniform primary education
policy. The statement of the legal experts is a tacit admission on the
part of the worthies that employment opportunities elude those who
study in Kannada medium.

These experts want the government to convince the parents and students
that job opportunities will not elude them. Is the government in a
position to guarantee jobs to those who pursue their education in
Kannada medium? What is the government's track record with regard to
providing jobs to those who have already pursued education in Kannada
medium? It is a big zero. Is the state government in a position to
provide primary education in the mother tongue all over the state, if
the mother tongue happens to be Gujarati, Punjabi, Oriya, etc? If the
child chooses the mother tongue and not the state language as the
medium of instruction, does the state have the resources to arrange
it? What does Hemalatha Mahishi have to say to this?

At best the government may ask the child to choose the state language
since it is not practicable to teach in its mother tongue. Does she
want the IAS, IPS and IFS officers to waste their precious time and
energy learning the local language instead of doing things more
precious? Did not the English rule over the entire country using just
one language? Any day, they were better administrators than our
present-day 'executive'. The law and order situation of every district
was taken care of by just three people - the District Collector, the
Superintendent of Police and the District Judge. It is the prerogative
of the parents to decide which language their child should choose as
medium of instruction. It is definitely not the prerogative of the
Chief Minister or the litterateurs or legal experts or pro-Kannada
organisations or opposition leaders. It is something strictly

In a multi-lingual country like India, a link language like English in
particular, comes in handy not only to the government but also to the
students. It is because of English, inter alia, the knowledge-based
industry is thriving in India. Many low-income and middle-income
families have become prosperous, as a result. Prosperity is not the
prerogative of the politicians or cinema stars alone. It is high time
that those who are opposed to English being the medium of instruction
realised that neither did Kalidasa's Sanskrit nor did Akbar's Urdu
unite the country as did the Englishman's English (I am quoting C
Rajagopalachari). Anyway those do not want to pursue English as the
medium of instruction are free to choose the vernacular medium. I
would dare these worthies as well as the chief minister himself to let
us know the medium of instruction their children and grandchildren
pursue at school.

There are things far more important that need the immediate attention
of the Karnataka government. Crops have failed in the state and the
rainfall has been scanty – the deficit is 23 percent. Against 250 mm,
the state has received only 195 mm of rainfall. The state has already
been declared as drought-hit. The drought monitoring cell has already
submitted a detailed report to the government on the subject. Eight
districts have received scanty rainfall. Nine have recorded a deficit.
It is time to seek financial assistance from the Centre. Alternative
employment opportunities will have to be provided to farmers affected
by the drought. Water and food grain shortage will have to be tackled.
Loan waiver may also have to be arranged. To the worthies who attended
the meeting on the High Court verdict on the medium of instruction,
this may not rank high on the list of priorities. But it should, for
the government of Karnataka.

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