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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Facing backlash, Delhi hospital withdraws ‘no Malayalam’ order

The office of the Nursing Superintendent of GIPMER said that Saturday's circular was issued “without any instructions or knowledge of the Hospital Administration and Delhi Government” and “stands withdrawn with immediate effect”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: June 6, 2021 10:10:36 pm
At a Covid-19 ward in New Delhi (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna, File)

FACING WIDESPREAD criticism from several quarters, including senior leaders of Congress and CPI(M), a Delhi government hospital Sunday withdrew an order barring its nursing staff from speaking in Malayalam.

The office of the Nursing Superintendent of Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (GIPMER) said that Saturday’s circular was issued “without any instructions or knowledge of the Hospital Administration and Delhi Government” and “stands withdrawn with immediate effect”.

“The order had not come either from the Delhi government or the hospital’s administration and I had not been aware that it had been issued. It seems to have been an internal communication within the nursing staff. The immediate action is to rectify the issue, but those who are responsible will be pulled up,” said the hospital’s medical director Dr Anil Agarwal.

“There had been a complaint but it is a fundamental right for them to converse amongst themselves in their language and there can’t be this kind of an order on that,” he said.

The order issued by the nursing superintendent on Saturday had said: “A complaint has been received regarding Malayalam language being used for communication in working places in GIPMER. Whereas maximum patients and colleagues do not know this language and feel helpless causing a lot of inconvenience. So it is directed to all Nursing Personnel to use only Hindi and English for communication otherwise serious action will be taken.”

Within hours, nursing officers from several Delhi hospitals, such as AIIMS, LNJP and GTB, formed an “action committee”, which condemned the circular and said they would launch a social media campaign against it.

Among those who condemned Saturday’s order was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who posted on Twitter: “Malayalam is as Indian as any other Indian language. Stop language discrimination!”

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted in Malayalam that the order is “a violation of the basic values of our country” and “an insult to lakhs of Malayali nurses who risk their lives to make us safe during the days of pandemic”.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan K C Venugopal, who hails from Kerala, described the order as “highly discriminatory and denying the basic fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution” in a letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. And the party’s MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor said it was “unacceptable, crude, offensive and a violation of the basic human rights of Indian citizens”.

Taking to Twitter, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury wrote in Malayalam: “What a joke!” He then wrote in English: “Unacceptable. No language can be banned from usage anywhere in India as long as the people conversing understand it. This must be reversed immediately.”
Delhi Nurses Federation general secretary Liladhar Ramchandani, who also works at G B Pant Hospital, welcomed the withdrawal of the order while also questioning its “politicisation”.

“There had been a complaint by a patient but the circular attempting to address it was badly drafted without considering any consequences and the pinpointing of Malayalam language obviously offended many people… It was wrong and it’s good that it was withdrawn but it got politicised, and got so much attention because it worked for political purposes.”

Ramchandani said: “I hope that the political leaders who spoke against it also speak about long-standing nurses’ issues such as regularisation of contractual nursing officers and the fact that there have been no promotions of nursing officers in Delhi government hospitals for 11 years.”

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