New Delhi: Every time President Pranab Mukherjee, a non-Hindi speaker, addresses a joint sitting of Parliament, the Hindi version of his speech is partially read out by Vice-President Hamid Ansari. Mr Ansari reads out the first and the last page of the speech and the rest is taken as read. Now the President has accepted the recommendations of a parliamentary committee that says speeches of dignitaries, including the President and Union Ministers, should be delivered in Hindi alone if they can.
To promote Hindi, the President has directed the Aviation Ministry to ensure that national carrier Air India have Hindi in-flight journals.
But President Mukherjee has rejected the idea of mandatory use of Hindi in all official communication of public share holding companies or forcing private companies to bring out a Hindi catalogue of their products. He has also turned down the proposal of a "minimum knowledge of Hindi" as a prerequisite for a government job.
"The fact that the President has taken out a notification on this issue is a big step and I express my gratitude and welcome it whole-heatedly," said veteran Parliamentarian Sharad Yadav.
Mr Yadav, who campaigned for the exclusive use of Hindi in official fora, told NDTV that if "visiting dignitaries from Russia, China or France can speak in their own language, what is the harm if Indian leaders speak in a language that is understood across India."
But Mr Yadav's colleague in the Rajya Sabha, senior communist leader D Raja, has a different opinion. Asserting that India has a rich tradition of multiple languages, Mr Raja said, "People will speak in whatever language they want to and feel comfortable and not by someone's order or advisory."
"I do not read or write Hindi but I can converse in Hindi. Sometimes, I even speak in Hindi at public meetings. I do not know how far my Hindi is correct, but people understand what I want to say. But if somebody forces me, I will not accept," Mr Raja said.
Mr Yadav countered it. "There is no question of enmity with any language. It is about promoting a language that is understood by most Indians," he said.
The Committee of Parliament on Official Languages made over 100 recommendations in 2011 to promote Hindi and interestingly, even then the Committee was headed by a non-Hindi speaking politician, former Home Minister P Chidambaram.