Unwanted Furore over “Imposing” Hindi & New Traffic Laws
It is a stark reality of the politics as practiced in India that the moment anybody, more so if a politician, uses the word Hindu, Hindu way of life and Hindi language, instantly hackles are raised by self-serving politicians, the self-righteous ‘secular-liberal’ intelligentsia. Recently when Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke on Hindi language on the occasion of Hindi Day, without reading and analyzing the words the Home Minister spoke, the opposition raised the war cry of “imposing” Hindi in the country.
But where did the Home Minister say in so many words that NDA government will ‘impose’ Hindi as the national language to the exclusion of all other Indian languages?
As per media reports, HM Amit Shah only pitched for Hindi as a common language for the country. In his opinion, it was necessary to have one language which could represent India in the world. On the occasion of Hindi Diwas, he felt that widely-spoken Hindi is the language which can keep India united. He also appealed that Hindi be made the primary language, saying that it is necessary to have one to represent India. He further appealed to the people “to promote their native languages but also use Hindi to make the dream of Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel of one language come true,” Amit Shah tweeted. He acknowledged that while diversity in languages is India’s strength, a national language is needed so that foreign languages and cultures do not overpower the country’s own.
It looks as if our leaders have so far failed to come out of their slavish set of mind. They have no objection to continuing a foreign language to be the means of communication but not Hindi.
Shri Shah was just expressing his opinion. Does the Home Minister of the country have no right to opinion and expression? His detractors seem to deny it.
According to 2001 census report, 53.6 percent of Indians have declared that they speak Hindi either as a first or second language of which 41 percent said their mother tongue is Hindi. Only 12 percent have declared that they can speak English. It may not even be 1% of India’s population which can claim English to be their mother tongue. Yet, what a travesty, our ‘secular-liberal’ intelligentsia takes pride in “imposing” English as the language of communication.
Further, it is interesting to note that an Indian Readership Survey Report (2017) reveals that readership of English dailies in the country over the past 4 years rose by 10 percent to touch a figure of 2.8 crores. On the other hand, the readership of Hindi newspapers all over the country jumped by 45 percent in the same period attaining the figure of 17.6 crores, almost 8 times more than English.
All these facts and figures strengthen the case of Hindi to be the national language and lingua franca of the people of the country.
The political heat apart, this writer recalls that he visited Chennai when M. G. Ramchandran was the chief minister. A government driver told him that instead of teaching Hindi in the period meant for Hindi teaching, the students were asked to play and have fun. At that time there were “Letters to the Editor” in the daily HINDU saying that the Tamil Nadu government has failed to provide jobs to its young men and women. If they wish to try their luck in other States, they have been made handicapped by Tamil Nadu government because it does not allow teaching of Hindi to its students.
However, it is also a fact that learning of Hindi in southern States has caught the imagination of young men and women. The situation has improved a lot.
Does success and popularity of Hindi films in southern states also not falsify the charge by politicians that Hindi was being ‘imposed‘ on the people?
This writer also recalls a cartoon in a prestigious Hindi weekly long ago in which two Englishmen are seen talking to each other. One said we committed a grave blunder to leave India in 1947. We should have told the Indians that we are also taking the English language with us. At this Indians would have fallen on our feet beseeching us not to take the English with them. If not, Indians would have prayed us to continue to rule India. They would have said that they cannot live without this language, the reminder of our subjugation.
In nutshell, nobody is “imposing” Hindi on anybody, but the ‘secular-liberal’ intelligentsia and some politicians are certainly “imposing” a foreign language English on an overwhelming majority of Indians.
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The high fines and other stringent punishments that have been provided under the new Motor Vehicle Act have created a great furore among those who ply cars, trucks, buses etc. Some States have so far not come to enforce the new law enacted by the Parliament of India. A few state governments are not doing so immediately, thanks only to the impending state assembly elections there.
It is no gainsaying the fact that the new law is very harsh — and should — on those who violate the traffic laws. But, at the same time, it does not disturb the peace of mind of the law-abiding citizens.
Firstly, we need to remember that the new law pinches only a very low percentage of the citizens of India. According to an ICE 3600 survey 2016, the percentage of the car-owning households in the country is only 11%. The percentage of two-wheeler owners has now risen to 36%. It clearly shows that the new law pinches only a very low fragment of India’s population.
Others pricked by the new law are the owners and drivers of commercial vehicles — trucks, buses etc.
One wonders why is this small fraction of India’s population raising so high a hue and cry against the new law. It preys on only those who, till now, had been feeling proud to violate law for pleasure. Some of these gentlemen were at ease at paying the low fines than respecting the traffic laws. It looks they want the license and right to break the traffic law and get away with paying a paltry sum of fine but do not feel the duty to ply their vehicles as per law of the country. They seem to be behaving like a person accused of murder calling the law providing for death sentence or imprisonment for life as very harsh and inhuman.
We also need not forget the fact that thousands of innocent lives, including those of school children, are lost because the drivers of the vehicles in which they travel are reckless in observing traffic laws.
Further, the new law will also result in less number of accidents and less loss of innocent lives and property. It will infuse a sense of respect for law among the citizens.
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst and commentator)