Panchayat in Kerala bans ‘sir’ and ‘madam’ in its office

‘Such salutations are remnants of colonial rule. It’s time we showed the supremacy of the people’

September 01, 2021 11:39 pm | Updated September 02, 2021 11:46 am IST - Palakkad

Illustration: Sreejith R Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R Kumar

The Mathur gram panchayat in Kerala’s Palakkad district has become the first local body in the country to ban the use of salutations like ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’.

A special meeting of the panchayat council on Tuesday took the historic decision that could likely kickstart a wave of reforms in the use of official language.

The panchayat viewed salutations like ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ as remnants of the colonial rule. “It’s been 75 years since we secured freedom from the British. It’s time we showed the supremacy of the people in a democratic government,” said P.R. Prasad, vice-president of the Mathur panchayat, moving a resolution.

People reaching the panchayat office for various purposes will no longer have to call officials “Sir” or “Madam”. Instead, they can address them by their designations or names. Every panchayat official will now display their names on their table.

If people feel addressing an elderly or senior person by name will be disrespectful, they can use the more friendly and endearing terms like Cheta (elder brother) or Chechi (elder sister). The panchayat has asked the Official Language Department to suggest proper alternatives to “Sir” and “Madam”.

The panchayat also decided to drop words like apekshikkunnu or abhyarthikkunnu (meaning I request) in letters. Instead, people can use avakasapedunnu (I demand) or thalparyapedunnu (I desire).

The panchayat has displayed a notice outside the office telling people that if anyone is denied any service for not using the banned words, they can complain to the panchayat president or secretary.

“In a democracy, government officials and elected representatives are the servants, the people are the supreme authority. People should not be at our mercy for their rights,” said Mr. Prasad.

Mathur panchayat president Pravitha Muraleedharan said that it was a bold step towards reducing the gap between officials and the people. The panchayat council took the decision unanimously, assuming that scrapping words that indicate colonial hangover will bring in an air of friendliness.

“We have done it taking the interest of everyone, including the officials, into consideration,” said Mr. Prasad.

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