[lg policy] How Telangana is hoping to preserve its cultural roots

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 10:27:23 EDT 2018


 A bill that was unanimously agreed upon: How Telangana is hoping to
preserve its cultural roots Telangana joins the bandwagon in making its
regional language compulsory in all schools
April 1, 2018 <https://qrius.com/telangana-preserve-cultural-roots/>
in Evening Edition <https://qrius.com/category/evening-edition/>, Policy
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[image: A bill that was unanimously agreed upon: How Telangana is hoping to
preserve its cultural roots]

Telangana, renowned for its deep cultural heritage. Credits: Visual Hunt

*By Anushree Jois*

In order to make teaching and learning Telugu compulsory in all schools,
the Telangana Legislative Assembly has passed the Telangana (Compulsory
Teaching and Learning of Telugu in Schools) Act, 2018. The bill has been
passed unanimously by all parties, including the BJP, TDP, AIMIM, CPI(M)
and is welcomed by academicians across the state.
Tabling the bill

A committee was formed by the state government to study the feasibility of
making Telugu a compulsory language, which submitted its preliminary report
in November 2017. This enabled the Chief Minister, K. Chandrashekar Rao, to
announce the government’s decision to make the learning of the language
compulsory in schools at the World Telugu Conference. The committee
submitted its final report in January this year and suggested that a
legislation may be passed in this regard.

Subsequently, the bill was drafted to conserve and promote the native
language and moved in the assembly by the Deputy Chief Minister and
Education Minister, Kadiam Srihari. Though the government’s decision of
making Telugu compulsory across all schools in the state could have been
executed by way of an order, in view of an earlier failed attempt of the
erstwhile Andra Pradesh government, the government has opted to pass a
bill. The decision to promote the regional language has been on the rise in
the past few years, particularly in the non-Hindi speaking states.
More about the bill

The implementation of the bill is now mandatory across all schools,
irrespective of the children not presently learning Telugu as a subject in
school. To begin with, Telugu will be introduced in Class 1 in primary
schools and Class 6 in high schools from the coming academic year.
Progressively, Telugu will be introduced as a language subject in all
classes.

Schools, government and private alike, prescribing to either the state
syllabus or any of the central, namely, CBSE and ICSE or any other
syllabus, are all required to implement the provisions of the bill. The
government is also empowered to pass a general or special order, exempting
a certain category of students from the provisions of the bill. The
exemptions may be made subject to conditions.
Concessions to students

While schools that prescribe to the state syllabus might not be affected by
the decision, however, schools that follow the central syllabus and other
linguistic minority-run schools will be affected. Concerns were raised if
students who haven’t been learning Telugu as a subject all these years will
be burdened by the government’s decision, particularly the non-Telugu
speaking students. In order to address this issue, the government has
decided to implement the bill in phases, that is, to implement it only in
Class 1 and Class 6 from the coming academic year, 2018-19 and then to
progressively make it compulsory in other classes.

This would mean that students who will be in Class 7 or 10, do not have to
learn Telugu as a subject. In a three-language policy set-up, it would also
mean that children would be able to learn the language in the same way that
they learn the other two languages. On the other hand, schools that follow
the state syllabus will implement the bill in all classes, that is, from
Class 1 to 10, starting this academic year.

The Chief Minister has assured that the implementation of the bill will not
be burdensome for non-Telugu speakers and said that *“We decided to make
Telugu a compulsory subject as it is our responsibility to respect our
mother tongue and our culture. Studying in English-medium schools is
becoming a must to acquire a good education. We don’t want to spoil the
career of our children and that is the reason we are making it compulsory
to include Telugu along with other subjects.”* The government appears to
have adopted a balanced approach in addressing the concerns of students and
in working towards its objective.
Qualifying marks

Though the objective of the government is to promote and preserve the
regional language and culture, one cannot lose sight of the reality that
Telugu as a subject will be scored like any other paper. This might prove
to be a challenge for students who have not been studying Telugu so far and
non-Telugu speaking students. In this regard, an article in the New Indian
Express, dated 29th March 2018, has reported that the qualifying marks for
students studying the subject in non-Telugu medium schools have been set at
just 20. This should make it easier for students to pass the subject.

AIMIM MLA, Jaffer Hussain, has further suggested that marks scored in
Telugu should not be linked to the overall ranking of a student.
Implementation of this suggestion might not only prove beneficial to
students but will also promote the language and culture as intended. On the
other side, the status of the language subject will be reduced to
‘optional’ and both, students and schools might pursue it seriously.
Preserving the culture and language of Telangana

To quote Rita Mae Brown, a prolific author, *“Language is the road map of a
culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”*
The Supreme Court has ruled that a state government can make its regional
language compulsory, even in a linguistic minority school. The bench that
consisted of the then Chief Justice S Rajendra Babu and former Justices AR
Lakshmanan and GP Mathur, had observed that *“The resistance to learning
the regional language will lead to alienation from the mainstream life,
resulting in linguistic fragmentation within the state, which is an
anathema to national integration,” *One of the most magnificent features of
Indian diversity is its linguistic diversity and any state government that
works towards the protection of its regional language is, in fact,
glorifying India’s uniqueness.

Many academicians have supported the move, stating that it is necessary to
protect and prevent the gradual erosion of the regional language, in this
case, Telugu. A former Member of Legislative Council, K Nageshwar, also a
journalism professor at the Osmania University, has emphasised that the
move is necessary to protect the language and culture. *“It has to be.
Otherwise, what is happening is that there is an increasing erosion of
Telugu identity since language is related to culture and identity.”*

He has also said that *“Once you kill the language, cultural identity is
also killed. What is happening is, even our own children are unable to
speak in Telugu.”* When discussing whether it is a *“legitimate aspiration”*
to develop one’s own language, not necessarily contrary to the others, he
said that the non-Telugu speakers could be given some exemptions and also
pointed out that *“If they are staying here for a long time, I think it is
in their interest to learn the language,”* he said. *“That is a part of
life…If you want to stay in China, you have to learn Chinese.”*
The way forward

Passing the bill is only the first step and the government has to ensure
that an effective mechanism is set in place to ensure its proper
implementation to achieve the objective. The government should also be open
to flexible options, suggestions and solutions in order to counter the
obstacles for the effective implementation of the bill.

Telangana has now joined the other non-Hindi speaking states that have
already made their regional language compulsory. This is a rising trend,
particularly in the non-Hindi speaking states, perhaps a defence mechanism
to maintain a distinctive identity amidst the ongoing battle to impose
Hindi, which is ‘one’ of the official languages and not a national
language, in all states.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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