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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Regional language proficiency for state govt jobs: ‘Creates barrier for outsiders’, ‘reflects political insecurity’

A handful of states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, already have a compulsory component of the Hindi language that candidates have to qualify. Other states including Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana too have similar provisions where candidates need to be fluent in the regional language.

Written by Sheetal Banchariya | New Delhi |
Updated: December 14, 2021 10:30:42 am
Language Proficiency Test Prep. Language Proficiency Eligibility in jobCandidates will have to pass a compulsory paper in the Tamil language as a basic qualifying norm for entry to Tamil Nadu government services and state-run public sector enterprises. File

The Tamil Nadu government recently made Tamil language proficiency compulsory for entry to state government services and state-run public sector enterprises. All state government held competitive exams would from now on have a compulsory paper in the Tamil language and a pass in the subject is the basic qualifying norm for entry to Tamil Nadu government services and state-run public sector enterprises, the government announced.

The latest decision by the DMK government, many believe, is a “reflection of political insecurities and lack of employment” and will create a barrier for candidates from other states.

Mohammad Tarique, faculty (history) and deputy director, Residential Coaching Academy, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), said the move is a result of shrinking resources, lesser government jobs and large scale unemployment. “Regional parties fear that they would lose their political constituency as unemployment of local youth in their region would cause unrest. The ‘us v/s them’ ideology is no longer limited to religion but is evident in states and castes,” he told indianexpress.com.

A handful of states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, already have a compulsory component of the Hindi language that candidates have to qualify. “The criterion already exists in Hindi-speaking belts such as the states of Rajasthan and UP. Candidates not only have to clear it but the marks get added to the final result,” Tarique added.

Maharashtra’s Son of Soil theory is a “classic example of regionalism in government jobs” and the ideology still exists, he added. Earlier in 2020, the Madhya Pradesh government had also announced that the state government jobs will only be given to “children of the state”.

Other states including Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana too have similar provisions where candidates need to be fluent in the regional language.

Twenty-eight-year-old Sanchita Sharma, who topped the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC) exam 2020 and cleared the Indian Forest Services Exam 2020, said that Tamil Nadu has not done something new as most states already have such requirements.

“Making regional language compulsory for state government jobs creates a barrier for candidates from other states and it is also against the spirit of integration. It also promotes regionalism. The in-service qualification of language exam could be a better way as it can help candidates learn the language while in job and prevent them being excluded in process of recruitment,” said the native of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in Punjab.

Retired IAS JK Dadoo, told indianexpress.com that government employees at lower levels cannot function without the local language, hence, it is imperative to put such measures in place. “The lower-level bureaucrats are confronted with several small issues that concern the local people. People who do not know the regional language do not usually apply for such jobs. Civil service aspirants from Punjab would not apply for a patwari’s job in Madurai. While dialects can be learnt on the job, state government employees in most job roles must know the state language to deliver their duties,” Dadoo added.

Knowing the local language does reduce the gap between the public and the administration, hence govt servants are trained on the job, said Tarique. “If a UP candidate is posted in Tamil Nadu, they are taught the language as part of training and it does take considerable time. Language in the southern region is sometimes more sensitive to one’s identity than religion or caste. Dravidian school of languages is difficult to adapt to for the Indo-Aryan linguistic people,” he added.

Mostly, people from the Hindi-speaking belt do not opt for southern states due to the language issue in day-to-day functioning and it is most likely that the trend would continue,” believes Sudha Mishra, who is aiming to crack state pcs exams of West Bengal, Bihar and UP.

“People from southern states are already well-versed with their native language, so that would not necessarily be an issue for qualifying the exam,” said the 30-year old from West Bengal.

The intent and the concern are genuine but one cannot rule out the shades of identity politics in India, said Shubhra Ranjan co-founder & executive director, Shubhra Viraj EduTech Private Limited — an institute providing guidance to civil services aspirants.

“Prima facie, it appears to a legitimate decision aiming at ensuring better communication and therefore more effective government policies. However, the southern states have been language conscious ever since independence. The first state reorganisation happened in this part of the country and largely on linguistics lines. Any such mandate is going to deprive a wide spectrum of students from the non-Tamil background of the opportunity to serve the people of Tamil Nadu,” she added.

Ranjan suggests that a better way can be to have robust post-selection language training, the way it is done for All India Service officers. “The Tamil proficiency contemplated by the government is only up to the level of class 10 standard, which can be achieved in on job training,” she added.

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