Debate over ‘sir’, ‘madam’ reaches SHRC

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has filed a case in connection with the ongoing debate over the issue of using the salutation ‘sir’ and ‘madam.’

The SHRC registered the case following a complaint by rights activist Boban Mattumantha, who was in the forefront of a campaign against the use of expressions from the colonial period asserting the authority of those in governance. Several civic bodies across the State came forward to drop the use of ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ as part of the campaign, which continues to gain momentum.

Mr. Mattumantha approached the SHRC in the wake of a reply he got from the Additional Chief Secretary of the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department confirming ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ as mere words of respect. The official said that ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ were being used extensively as terms of respect among people, including in government offices.

However, Mr. Mattumantha questioned the Government argument saying that government servants rarely address people approaching them for various purposes using ‘sir’ and ‘madam,’ and instead the former expect the people to address them using ‘sir’ and ‘madam.’

“This is against the ethos of democracy enshrined in our Constitution. We are still following the colonial culture left behind by the British even 74 years after we secured freedom,” he said.

In his complaint to the SHRC, Mr. Mattumantha pointed out that people’s representatives, including ministers, MPs and MLAs, were rarely using the term ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ when writing to or addressing their counterparts.

“Our Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart addressing him as ‘Stalinjee’ and to Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing him as ‘Modijee.’ If ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ are mere words of respect, our Chief Minister should be using it,” he said.

Mr. Mattumantha demanded that the Government either tell people not to use ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ in government offices or tell government servants to address people using ‘sir’ and ‘madam’.

“Those in governance do not want to lose the feeling that they are in power and that the people are ‘subjects’. That’s why they continue to enjoy being addressed as ‘sir’ and ‘madam’,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 2:42:03 AM |

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