In December last year, Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had assured that the decision of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to extend the three-language formula in schools to class 10 will not lead to the “imposition of one language”. Less than four months later, President Pranab Mukherjee has given “in principle” approval to a parliamentary panel recommendation asking the HRD ministry to “make credible efforts to make Hindi a compulsory subject”. The presidential order has confirmed fears Javadekar had sought to allay. Hindi should be “compulsorily taught in all CBSE schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas till class 10”, says the order dated March 31.
The original three-language formula was sensitive to the country’s linguistic diversity. It envisaged teaching a modern Indian language, preferably from south India, apart from Hindi and English till standard eight in schools in north India. But Hindi-speaking states have never had more than a handful of schools with teachers who can teach Malayalam, Kannada or Tamil — or, for that matter, Bengali or Marathi. Sanskrit — and in some cases, foreign languages — has become the default third language choice in most such schools. The presidential order to make Hindi compulsory till class 10 compounds this perversion of the original three-language formula.
The order asks the HRD ministry to “encourage” institutes that do not have Hindi departments to open them. But that could be a politically fraught project in some parts of the country. The wounds caused by the turmoil over the language agitation in Tamil Nadu, for instance, have long healed and the government should be careful not to reopen them in parts of the country that have a long history of resistance to the imposition of Hindi. In any case, why must the state invest crores in promoting Hindi in places where such an action is likely to be seen as an imposition? Haven’t Bollywood and the music industry proved far more adept ambassadors of the language?