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Hindi gains ground via a demographic shift


According to the 2011 Census, Hindi and its variants are the only major languages to have gained mother tongue adherents over the last 40 years, growing from 36.99% of the population in 1971 to 43.63% by 2011. A large factor in this growth comes from demographic changes.


GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Monetary Policy, Inflation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Language-related frictions in 2021
  2. Reasons given by the Centre to make Hindi a compulsory language:
  3. Increase in Hindi and relation with demographic change
  4. Constitutional provisions related to languages
  5. Way Forwards regarding making Hindi compulsory
  6. Background: About NIPUN Bharat Mission

Language-related frictions in 2021

  • When the Centre launched its NIPUN Bharat scheme to improve foundational literacy and numeracy among primary school students in July 2021, participants from non-Hindi speaking States complained.
  • Malayali nurses in a Delhi government hospital opposed a ban on speaking Malayalam even among themselves.
  • Tamil Nadu delegates at a yoga and naturopathy training webinar claimed that the AYUSH Ministry Secretary told them if they wanted English to be used, they could leave.
  • A notification by the Department of Official Languages, Ministry of Home Affairs came out with the recommendations of Committee of Parliament on Official Language which said that Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) to make Hindi language compulsory in curriculum amongst other things.
  • In 1965, efforts to impose Hindi as the country’s only official language had triggered violent riots in the South and similar fashion the country witnessed protests against Hindi. However, later the Centre addressed concerns about the draft National Education Policy’s recommendation regarding the three-language formula and mandatory Hindi teaching in schools.

Reasons given by the Centre to make Hindi a compulsory language:

  • Having a Common language for administrative purposes will greatly reduce burden and easy communication of ideas/knowledge and in turn help in building sense of brotherhood and integrity.
  • It is said that Hindi is the most widely spoken Indian language, with around 40cr. people using it. Therefore, there is natural need to use it in official communications, so that the official decisions are easily understood by these people.
  • With increased use of Hindi for official purposes, greater attention and focus will be given to the lenguage which has been lost in the recent times.
  • English language which at present dominates official work, is foreign language and is a colonial legacy. Therefore, it must be replaced with our own language.

Increase in Hindi and relation with demographic change

  • According to the 2011 Census, Hindi and its variants are the only major languages to have gained mother tongue adherents over the last 40 years, growing from 36.99% of the population in 1971 to 43.63% by 2011.
  • Fertility rates are higher among the poor and among women with less education, who comprise a higher share of Hindi speakers according to the Centre for Policy Research – noting that the ten States with the highest share of Hindi speakers grew from around 42% of India’s population in 1971 to more than 46% by 2011.
  • Migration could be increasing the number of those whose mother tongue is Hindi even in non-Hindi speaking States.

Constitutional provisions related to languages

  • There is no national language as declared by the Constitution of India.
  • Under the Article 343, the Constitution lists Hindi written in Devanagari script as well as English as the official language to be used for official purposes such as parliamentary proceedings, judiciary, communications between the Central Government and a State Government.
  • States within India have the liberty and powers to specify their own official language(s) through legislation.
  • The Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages. The Government of India is under an obligation to take measures for the development of these languages.
  1. Article 351 states: “It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.”
  2. Article 350 states: “It shall be the endeavour of every State and of every local authority within the State to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups; and the President may issue such directions to any State as he considers necessary or proper for securing the provision of such facilities.”

Way Forwards regarding making Hindi compulsory

  • It must be kept in mind that linguistic problems are not limited to India and have arisen in other parts of the world too. The language issue has led to civil war in Sri Lanka, students uprising and separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Therefore, there is a great need to handle the language issue with care.
  • There is no denying of the fact that there is a need to develop a lingua-franca for India, but it should neither be forced upon nor such feeling should come. It should be a natural process. It must be kept in mind that whenever a particular language has dominated a region or world, it has been because of knowledge creation in the language.
  • Training facilities for officials, application of three language formula and other steps must be taken so that no one finds difficulty in understanding Hindi.
  • A common official language, which reflects local culture, aspirations should be used only after consultation with all states.

Background: About NIPUN Bharat Mission

  • National Initiative for Proficiency in reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat) is a scheme to ensure that every child achieves desired learning competencies in reading, writing, and numeracy by end of Grade 3, by the year 2026-27 – to provide an enabling environment in a bid to ensure universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy.
  • The NIPUN Bharat Mission is a part of school education programme, Samagra Shiksha.
  • NIPUN Bharat initiative will be implemented by school education department of Union government and to implement it, a five-tier implementation mechanism will be set up at national, state, district, block, and school levels across all states and Union territories.
  • No additional funding is being allocated for the mission. Instead, money is being allocated from the Samagra Shiksha scheme, which saw a 20% drop in its budget in 2021.
  • So far, the goal has simply been to enrol children in school, and then to ensure that they finish Class 10. This mission specifies stage-wise learning goals to ensure that students are acquiring the necessary building blocks.
  • The NIPUN Bharat strategy includes changes in curriculum and teaching methods to include more activity, art and story-telling, creation of print-rich materials and resources, teacher training, and stress-free assessment methods in order to reach these goals.
  • NIPUN Bharat also emphasises the importance of using a child’s mother tongue in teaching, a principle of the National Education Policy 2020, which received some criticism.

Recent Developments

  • Although the National Education Policy had included a 2025 deadline to achieve the goal, the Centre has pushed back the target date to 2026-27, given that COVID-19 has already disrupted two academic years.
  • A National Achievement Survey of Class 3 students to be conducted this November will set a baseline to track future progress.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023