Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah said on Saturday that when he took charge on June 1, less than 10% of the files pertaining to the Ministry were in Hindi, “but today 60% files are in Hindi”.
“I work in the Home Ministry; when I came here, not even 10% of the files were in Hindi, now it is 60%. If every department brings this change, then we will be able to promote Hindi,” Mr. Shah said pointing to the Secretaries of various Union Ministries in the audience at an event to celebrate Hindi Divas in Delhi.
Known to go through papers and documents in detail, Mr. Shah does not depend much on officials when it comes to “file notings”.
After he joined office, four or five additional staff members were engaged to translate files from English to Hindi for a better understanding of the subject, a Ministry official said.
The Minister insists that press releases of events are sent out in Hindi first and he himself goes through the draft before they are released to the press.
An official said that for decades, the file notings in the Ministry that dealt with complex internal security matters were in English.
Mr. Shah’s predecessor Rajnath Singh, who is from Uttar Pradesh, also stressed the use of Hindi in official work, but restricted himself to only putting his signature in Hindi on file notings.
“The files composed by bureaucrats are in English; the Minister then gets them translated into Hindi to take decisions accordingly. He doesn’t rely on officials alone,” another official said.
Mr. Shah is not alone, the dominance of Hindi in power corridors in the second tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government is evident. A Health Ministry official said there was no written communication on shifting to Hindi but the gradual shift was evident with some notings and even official correspondence coming by in Hindi.
“See, no one is averse to the language but when we have a large section of people who are comfortable with a particular language, it is best to keep it uniform. Also, this Ministry sees major collaborations, research-based policy papers, data-driven information which covers a very large group of people. Hence it is vital that information and message don’t slip through the cracks of language barriers,” the official said.
Meanwhile, a senior physician with over five decades of experience and professor at a leading government medical college, who did not want to be named, noted: “English is the medium of education for all medical studies and our graduates are able to go in for higher education and research, in all major developed countries, because their language skills are strong. Personally, when we are seeing patients, most are comfortable with their regional language. Language should not be imposed — it should be a matter of choice.”
Another senior doctor, noting that that all text books of medicine are in English and that the language gives the Indian students an edge, said: “Without getting into the politics of things I would like to point out that even countries like China are now offering medical courses in English. This allows their students to find jobs faster and also go in for higher education across the world. Almost all research work is available in English and it is a very uniting language now.”
Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal speaks in “Sanskritised Hindi” at all convocations even in institutes where the medium of instruction is English such as the Indian Institutes of Technology.
Under the Official Languages Act, 1963, English is to be used for purposes of communication between the Union and a State which has not adopted Hindi as its Official Language.
In 2015, the government also constituted a Hindi Advisory Committee in various Ministries and departments to “ensure progressive use of Hindi”.
Earlier, the government issued an order that under the Act, all government files would have to be issued bilingually — in Hindi and English.