Laxmikant Deshmukh, former chairman of All India Marathi Literature Meet, and working president of Marathichya Bhalyasathi (a platform for development of Marathi) talks to The Indian Express about the announcement made by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of making Marathi compulsory in schools of all boards, promotion of the language and the newly introduced method of reading and writing number names in Class II. Excerpts from the interview:
Two days back, the Chief Minister announced in the Legislative Assembly that teaching Marathi will be compulsory in schools of all boards in the state. Your comment.
I welcome the announcement on the floor of the House. So far, he gave us assurances in our meetings. Now, we will just wait to see that the announcement is converted into law soon. We have demanded a law as we feel that Marathi should have primacy in the state.
Is it enough to make the language compulsory or do we need other measures to promote the language among children?
Only making Marathi compulsory in schools is not enough to promote it among children. It just means that we have won half the battle. Then, we need to improve the quality of education in Marathi schools. Most Marathi schools are run by municipal corporations, councils and zilla parishads and they invest little in them. So, the quality is far from satisfactory. Besides, we should also go for digital schools to improve the quality of education. There should be efforts to in improve the quality of Marathi schools, which should be at par with English schools.
When most parents want children to study in English schools, what else can be done to keep parents and kids interested in Marathi?
Because of good prospects and career opportunities, they are opting for English. But they will not oppose learning Marathi as a subject.
Why do you think children choose a foreign language but not Marathi? Why is Marathi not attractive as an optional subject? Why should it be compulsory?
There are two to three reasons behind this. First, the mentality of the parents that if kids learn a foreign language, they can get good jobs abroad. But the children can learn a foreign language at the college level as well. It should not be part of school education. The government has adopted three-language policy – English, Hindi and Marathi (or local language). Besides, the English schools do not give a choice to children to choose the third language but force them to select one from the available options due to commercial reasons. Broadly, it is a problem in cities like Mumbai and Pune. Not only Marathi, but all other Indian languages are being ignored because of English and Hindi. That is a national phenomenon. And one of the reasons is that we have not made enough efforts to make Marathi the language of knowledge. During the rule of the Nizam, Urdu was compulsory in schools and colleges. There were instances of doctors and lawyers completing their education in Urdu. So, if there is a will, the language can be made attractive. Basically, the learning should be in the mother tongue. That is a worldwide phenomenon. Only in India, we learn higher education and science and technology in English language.
You and many others are holding a protest at Azad Maidan. What are your demands?
Under the platform of Marathichya Bhalyasathi, we have submitted a charter of six demands to the state government. First, we have asked the government to enact a law to make Marathi compulsory from Classes I to XII in all medium schools in the state. Second, we have demanded that the government should establish a Marathi Development Authority, on the lines of Kannada Development Authority, that will have quasi-judicial powers. The body can recommend programmes and policies to make Marathi a part of all walks of life. Besides, we have also asked the government to ensure the use of Marathi in administration, central establishments and share market, to inculcate reading habits among children from schools, to set up a Marathi Language Bhavan to have all the offices working for it under one roof, improve the quality of education of Marathi schools by investing heavily to compete with private English schools, and to give the status of classical language to Marathi.
Bal Bharati has introduced a new reading and writing method for number names in the Class II mathematics book, saying that it will make learning numbers easier for students. Your comment.
In my personal capacity (and not on behalf of the Marathichya Bhalyasathi platform), I welcome the decision. Because, most students in the state fail in English and mathematics. If the students are unable to understand mathematics properly, they won’t be able to gain mastery in mathematics and science. Besides, the decision is taken by an expert committee headed by Mangala Narlikar. So, we should not mix the study of Marathi with teaching methods of mathematics. It is not against the Marathi language.