Sushma concerned over neglect of Hindi

HYDERABAD, DEC. 27. Why should Indian leaders speak in English with foreign dignitaries who choose to talk in their native tongue?

This question has been posed by the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, to the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Jaswant Singh, while pointing out the lack of clarity on this issue.

Visiting heads of Government from Russia, China, Japan, Germany and France invariably spoke in their national languages. They used an interpreter though some were fluent in English. But, Indian leaders conversed in English instead of Hindi, letting go an opportunity to let the visitors know that India had a national language.

Addressing the 21st annual function of Dakshin Bharat Hindi Pratishthan here today, Mrs. Swaraj said the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, was scrupulously adhering to this policy by addressing the UN General Assembly in Hindi. During his recent visit to Japan, he spoke in Hindi even at press conferences.

Emphasising the need to avoid paying mere lip-service to the cause of Hindi, she said Mr. Vajpayee had put it pithily at a recent meeting by saying, ``it is not enough to speak about the language, one must speak in it''. Mrs. Swaraj observed that Bollywood films and Doordarshan had done more than anyone else for generating public interest in Hindi.

Addressing the concerns of the Hindi Pratishthan, a body formed 24 years ago by a group of freedom fighters, she the Prime Minister had repeatedly been encouraging Ministers to make file notations in Hindi and she was among those following his advice.

She said Hindi formed a strong link between the North and the South during the freedom struggle. Hindi and the regional languages were like sisters to be treated with equal importance. To the delight of the audience, she reeled off a sentence or two in Kannada, the language she learnt before contesting the Parliament elections from Bellary.

Earlier, the Union Minister of State for Urban Development, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya, said that computers and typewriters in Hindi were virtually unavailable. He promised soft loans from HUDCO to freedom fighters who possessed house sites, but not funds to build houses.

Mr. Katam Lakshminarayana, managing trustee, welcomed the gathering, while Vidyadhar Guruji, presided. Mrs. Swaraj felicitated Mr. Vishwanath Iyer of Kochi, Dr. G. Padmaja Devi, Mr. G.J. Harijeet and Mr. Adeshwar Rao for their distinction in Hindi literature.