Puducherry’s Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (Jipmer) was on Monday (May 9) at the centre of controversy, with the DMK, part of the c-led Opposition in the Union Territory, organising a massive protest. The protest was against a recent circular issued by the renowned hospital, insisting that the staff use Hindi in official communications.
Over 500 DMK workers, including four MLAs, were arrested in the protest seeking withdrawal of the circular.
What did the circulars say?
A top JIPMER official said at least four circulars, two “Top Priority” circulars among them, issued by the JIPMER Director, Rakesh Aggarwal, provoked some sections. These circulars cited the Official Language Act of the Official Language Policy of the government of India.
Requesting anonymity, the senior JIPMER official said the decision to issue the circulars was as per a Parliamentary Committee on Official Language, asking the institution to comply with their directions ahead of their inspection visit to the hospital.
The circular noted a non-compliance of the administration with Section 3(3) of the Official Language Act, 1963. “Section 3(3) provides that the documents of general orders, notifications, resolutions, rules, administrative and other reports, press communiques, contracts, agreements, licenses, permits, notices of tenders and forms of tenders should be issued in bilingual form, i.e., in Hindi and English simultaneously,” the circular said.
“It is the responsibility of the officer signing such documents, as also the concerned section officer-in-charge, to ensure that the aforesaid documents are issued in bilingual form, both in Hindi and English simultaneously. Such documents should, therefore, be sent to the Hindi Section for translation before issue. All the heads of the departments and Section-In-Charges are requested to pay special attention and take necessary action to ensure strict compliance with this act,” the circular said.
And the second circular, citing Rule 11(2) of the Official Language Rule, 1976, said the headings and columns of registers and titles in the files used in Central government offices shall be vin Hindi and English as per the Committee of Parliament on Official Language. It also insists on having subjects and the headings of the columns in all the registers, service books and service accounts in offices to be written in Hindi and English. “In future, entries in all the registers/service books/service accounts will be made as far as possible in Hindi Only,” the circular said.
While the Section 3 (3) of the Official Language Act applies to all orders, decisions, instructions and circulars intended for internal communications, and all orders, instructions, letters, memoranda, notices, circulars, etc. about the employees as well as a section of employees, the latest move makes heads of the departments as well as officers officer-in-charge of various departments accountable — circular copies had been sent to all departments of the administration and exhibited on notice boards.
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Protest and politics
R Siva, DMK MLA and Opposition leader in the Puducherry Assembly, had led the protest on Monday, demanding that the administration rescind the circular.
The Jipmer protest was a significant move of the DMK in Puducherry, which has often played the role of a mere ally of Congress, which used to have a considerable influence and power in Puducherry.
The Congress government was ousted from power in February 2021 after they lost a Motion of Confidence, followed by five Congress MLAs and one DMK MLA joining the BJP. Nationally, BJP was blamed for sabotaging the government using the powers of Delhi and the then Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi.
Former Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan, who is now serving as the Governor, has kept a lid on controversies since then. After the NR Congress-BJP alliance won the last Assembly elections, Soundararajan has kept her approach non-confrontational, even as the NR Congress leader and Chief Minister N Rangasamy has not complied with the BJP’s demands in several issues, including power-sharing.
Reactions, grievances of locals
For a long time, parties, including DMK, AIADMK and even several local outfits, have raised concerns about the prospects of the local population in Puducherry. At the Jipmer protest, MLA Siva raised similar issues — he spoke about few local youth getting jobs at Jipmer, claiming that most hospital staff, including doctors and nurses, were being appointed from other states. He demanded quality treatment for Puducherry people in Jipmer under the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme and called for a change in the recruitment to ensure more representation of local people.
L-G Soundararajan, on her part, maintained there was no Hindi imposition and Tamil was being given due space as a local language. Soundararajan also visited Jipmer, held discussions with the hospital administration, and asserted that nobody should interfere in the functioning of the hospital over “mere allegations”.