[lg policy] Mahesh Sharma, regional languages are also a part of India’s culture

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Sep 12 20:06:27 UTC 2015

Mahesh Sharma: regional languages are also a part of India’s culture
September 11, 2015, 6:30 pm IST Sanjiv Shankaran
<http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/author/sanjivshankaran/> in Cash
Flow <http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cash-flow/> *|* India
<http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/> *|* TOI

Dr Mahesh Sharma, a central minister with two separate portfolios, tourism
& culture and civil aviation, is in the news for his views on culture. He
is worried about western encroachment on Indian culture.

Sharma’s views must be taken seriously not merely because he is minister
for culture. A BJP parliamentarian from Gautam Budh Nagar, U.P, his profile
in culture ministry’s web site says that he has been an RSS activist since
childhood. It is reasonable to assume, given his background, that his views
do not deviate in any way from that of the ruling dispensation.

In an interview
describes his idea of western cultural encroachment as follows.

“Today, you give an option of reading German to students, but it should not
be at the cost of our own language. Students should learn everything but
not at the cost of Sanskrit or Hindi. This is what I consider encroachment
of my culture by the west.”

Sharma’s case on cultural encroachment is situated in language policy.
Also, without explicitly saying it, he earmarks Hindi and Sanskrit for
special treatment.

It is an odd combination for Hindi, according to the constitution, is an
official language and Sanskrit one of the many languages in the eighth
schedule of the constitution. It means Sanskrit is on par with other
languages in the eighth schedule such as Santhali or Urdu. Hindi is also
listed in the same schedule, but it also happens to be an official
language-India does not have a national language.

If the government wishes to promote Santhali with as much enthusiasm as
Sanskrit, it is not apparent. When Sharma’s interview is juxtaposed with
other developments, what comes through is that Hindi and Sanskrit seem to
be prioritized over other languages. It is a tragedy.

As things stand today, students whose medium of instruction in school is
either English or Hindi are privileged. When compared to the millions of
children whose medium of instruction is one of the many other languages in
the eighth schedule such as Odia or Assamese, English and Hindi medium
students have an unfair advantage as question papers in many central
government controlled competitive exams are set only in English and Hindi.

The government’s defense of its stance is weak. Defending its position in a
court hearing about a petition relating to questions for IIT-JEE exam being
set only in English and Hindi, the government said the medium of
instruction in IITs is English and lack of proficiency in English will be a
It is an illogical position because if the government really wants to
follow through on its logic, questions should not be set in Hindi.

This problem shows up in other kinds of exams too. A few years ago, former
Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh promised to lobby the central
government to allow Marathi-medium students to answer some exams in their
native tongue as they were at a disadvantage in relation to students in
English and Hindi medium

Unfortunately, Sharma reinforces a suspicion that the discriminatory policy
against regional languages will continue. The consequences are tragic for
millions of students. At a national level, it is also a sheer waste of the
existing talent pool.

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