The regional language nightmare

24 Sep 2006
Posted by Kiran

The Government of Karnataka has taken exception to the fact that some of the state recognized schools are still using English as the medium of instruction. This seems to have enraged our Chief Minister who has come all out against these schools and threatened them with de-recognition if they don't mend their ways.

This act of the government shouldn't have come as a surprise. In recent times the politicians and the people seem to have got hung up on the importance of using the regional language - Kannada. The emphasis on the regional language is quite evident in State run offices. All citizens are required to fill up their applications/forms in Kannada; most of the legal forms appear in Kannada and only Kannada! Whether those citizens actually know and understand Kannada seems to be a minor detail that is ignored.

This Kannada hang-up is not limited to the Government. It no longer seems to be mandatory to have Vehicle License plates in English; people conveniently ignore the fact that English license plates are required by law! Well who cares? The Traffic Police certainly don't! It has gone as far as vigilante organizations enforcing the use of Kannada in the state through their "Chaluvali"s (Chaluvali is a Kannada term meaning "movement"). They have full liberty to cause damage to or apply black tar on the name boards of traders and businesses having their names written in English; usually the Police look the other way or may even actually get involved on the side of the Chaluvali members.

The common man is usually either a mute spectator, who dare not raise a voice, or worse, a helpless victim.

While I don't disagree with the idea that the use of state language needs to be encouraged and in fact it should be the norm in the state, I do disagree with the intolerance approach adopted by the Government and the people.

Surely there must be a better way to make people want to learn Kannada and use it, than to force them to gulp down the language and choke on it.

Why not create quality Kannada movies having original and innovative scripts instead of making it mandatory for all Movie halls in Karnataka to screen the third-rate Kannada movies that are currently being churned out by the state's movie industry? Surely if there is quality on offer, people will want it.

Why not provide incentives to people using Kannada in their official applications instead of making usage of Kannada mandatory? This will encourage people who will be staying longer term in the state to start learning the language in right earnest while still not shutting the doors on people who are new to the language.

Why not be honest and recognize that English is the language that will enable the state denizens to compete on a Global arena. Shouting down English usage will only do harm to Kannadigas. Instead of making English unattractive, why not make Kannada more attractive to encourage people to learn it as well.

And most importantly, it is necessary to ensure that each Kannadiga feels proud of his/her heritage and state. If the only things that Karnataka has to offer are pot-holed roads, irregular water and electricity supply, exorbitant taxes and politicians who only worry about their vote-banks, then let alone the newcomers, even those that are born in this state will shy away from identifying themselves with it.