A Bill to grant the status of Central universities to three deemed Sanskrit universities was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Monday after several Opposition MPs raised concern over the other five classical Indian languages being neglected by the government.
The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2020, was passed through a voice vote. Since the Bill had earlier been passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2019 , it’s title was amended in the Rajya Sabha to change the year. The amended Bill will now be sent back to the Lok Sabha. It gives Central status to the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Delhi and the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Tirupati.
While he supported the Bill and made part of his speech in Sanskrit, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said Sanskrit was a “beautiful language” but its history of being an “instrument of caste oppression” could not be forgotten. He said the government, to a question on expenditure on classical languages in the last three years in the Lok Sabha on February 3, said it had spent around ₹640 crore on promotion of Sanskrit, ₹24 crore on Tamil, ₹3 crore each on Telugu and Kannada and nothing on Malayalam and Odia. He said all six classical languages should be promoted equally. He suggested that the government name two of the universities after Sanskrit scholars like Panini.
In his reply to the discussion, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ refuted the allegation that the government was promoting Sanskrit at the expense of other languages. He said the passage of the Bill would boost the growth of the language.
Earlier in the discussion, Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav suggested that the students council proposed in the Bill should instead be a students’ union comprising elected members. K.K. Ragesh of the CPI(Marxist) said the government was discriminating against South Indian languages. M. Shanmugam of the DMK said the government was trying to impose Hindi and Sanskrit.
Vandana Chavan of the Nationalist Congress Party and Manoj Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal both supported the Bill but said all classical languages should be given equal importance. Vaiko of the MDMK said he opposed the Bill which he termed ‘obnoxious’.