Chidambaram springs a surprise
Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday received appreciation from the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as he read out a few lines in Bhojpuri that translated into: “I understand your feelings.”
He read out this line while informing the House that the Centre would take a final decision on inclusion of Bhojpuri in the 8 Schedule of the Constitution to give it official status and announce it in the next session.
The Speaker said she was happy that the Home Minister “has not spoken in Hindi but in Bhojpuri, even though it is difficult for him to speak in Hindi. He has said he would take an expeditious decision and I hope that he would return [to the House] soon.”
Mr. Chidambaram's assurance was received with thumping of desks by MPs across the political spectrum.
“We will consider the two reports — the Sitakant Mahapatra Committee and the Union Public Service Commission — on the issue expeditiously. We will be announcing a decision in the monsoon session,” he said in response to a vociferous demand from the members for a speedy decision.
The demand was raised during the calling attention motion following which several members from the Opposition trooped into the well, urging the Speaker to direct the government to announce a time frame for a decision.
Earlier in his response, the Home Minister had said that it would be his endeavour to give the “good news” on the issue as early as possible but that did not convince the members who wanted a time frame.
The calling attention motion was moved by Jagdambika Pal, Shailendra Kumar (both SP), Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Umashanker Singh (both RJD), saying the rich language was spoken not just in India but in several other countries by 20-25 crore people.
In response to the notice, Mr. Chidambaram said while 22 languages were already included in the 8th Schedule, representations for inclusion of 38 more had been received over the years.
Pointing out that there was “no established set of criteria” for inclusion of languages in the schedule, Mr. Chidambaram said a Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sitakant Mahapatra on the issue. It submitted its report in 2004 but a final decision was yet to be taken.
In 2006, proposals to include Rajasthani and Bhojpuri languages were also received. “The inclusion of a language in the 8th Schedule has, at present, a direct link to the examinations conducted by the UPSC,” he said, adding that it was then decided that the matter be “deferred till a decision is taken by the government on the issue of UPSC exams.”
The UPSC also set up a high-level panel to examine the issue. The panel recommended that the conduct of UPSC examinations be delinked from the inclusion of languages in the 8th Schedule, he said, adding that its report was received in March this year and now under consideration of the Department of Personnel and Training.
Mr. Jagdambika Pal said it was not correct to keep the decision on an important matter pending for a long time while Mr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said Bhojpuri was a “depository of a very rich culture” spoken by 25 crore people in India and in countries like Mauritius, Maldives, Surinam, South Africa, Jamaica and Nepal.
Mr. Shailendra Kumar wanted to know whether the UPSC conducted its exams in all the 22 languages recognised by the Constitution, calling it “only an alibi.”
Mr. Umashanker Singh said the Speaker had herself been actively promoting the language and urged her to direct the government to take an expeditious and time-bound decision.