"Was Under No Pressure": Education Panel Chief On "Hindi-Imposition" Row

Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan said that the committee decided on the three-language clause in keeping with studies which show that children learn languages best when they are between three and eight years of age.

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Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan said bringing about social change is tougher than rocket science.


New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Committee appointed to create a new national education policy
  2. Panel aims to replace existing policy formulated over 25 years ago
  3. Many see 3-language formula as a means to impose Hindi on southern states

Eminent scientist and academician Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan on Wednesday denied that his team had come under any kind of pressure while drafting the new education policy, specifically over a three-language formula that many political parties claim is a means to forcibly impose Hindi on southern states

Dr Kasturirangan heads a committee appointed to create a new National Education Policy to replace the existing one formulated for the country's educational system over 25 years ago. Many southern political parties had protested a reference to Hindi in the initial draft policy released on Friday, forcing the committee to bring out an alternative version. However, the DMK in Tamil Nadu has reservations about the new draft too, claiming that the three-language formula is only a "devious" attempt at providing Hindi with a backdoor into South India. 

"There was no pressure, and nobody even rang us to say that there was a problem. I got up one morning to find out that there was tremendous resentment in some southern states. I called up my colleagues, and we sat together and debated our next move. That was how we decided that we should invoke the alternative version of the draft policy instead," Dr Kasturirangan, who is also a former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told NDTV in a televised interview.

Rejecting claims of Hindi-imposition made by critics, he pointed out that the language had been made mandatory for South Indian states in the 1968 policy as well as successive ones in 1986 and 1992. "We, in fact, have provided flexibility in that respect. Our three-language formula does not impose Hindi on any state," the 78-year-old committee head said.

He maintained that the committee decided on the controversial clause in keeping with studies which show that children learn languages best when they are between three and eight years of age. "The three-language formula provides students with the basis for youngsters to pick up even more languages in the years to come. We would be equipping them, and what's wrong with that?" Dr Kasturirangan asked.

The former ISRO chief, who has received three major civilian awards through his career, admitted that bringing about social change can be harder than rocket science. "The issues one needs to address in rocket science pales before all this. The successful launch of a rocket does not immediately turn into an issue of national debate. But then, there's no fun in trying to create such a complex policy when there is no criticism. It should be constructive criticism, that's all," he said. 

Language is a sensitive issue in southern India, with many of its states opposing any attempt at imposing Hindi on them. Massive agitations broke out across Tamil Nadu in 1965, when the three-language formula was first proposed by the Lal Bahadur Shastri government. Karnataka also witnessed similar protests in 2017, with people damaging three-language signboards at railway stations in Bengaluru.



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