Special Content

Volume 24, 2017

Hindi as The Official Language of the Union

Vishnupriya Pandey

"For all-India intercourse we need, from among the Indian stock, a language which the largest number of people already know and understand and which the others can easily pick up. This language is indisputably Hindi."
-Mahatma Gandhi
India is a land of diverse languages. As a proverb goes, "Every two miles the water changes, every four miles the speech." As per the 1961 Census, India had more than 1652 mother tongues, genetically belonging to five different language families. The 1991 Census had 10,400 raw returns of mother tongues and they were rationalized into 1576 mother tongues. After further rationalizing in the Census 2001,  there is a total of 122 languages and 234 mother tongues in the country. However, there are 22 scheduled languages as per the eighth schedule of the Constitution of India. These languages are (1) Assamese, (2) Bengali, (3) Gujarati, (4) Hindi, (5) Kannada, (6) Kashmiri, (7) Konkani, (8) Malayalam, (9) Manipuri, (10) Marathi, (11) Nepali, (12) Oriya, (13) Punjabi, (14) Sanskrit, (15) Sindhi, (16) Tamil, (17) Telugu, (18) Urdu (19) Bodo, (20) Santhali, (21) Maithili and (22) Dogri. During India's struggle for Independence, though every language played a role against colonial power, but, the question and need for a national language rose. A country, full of diverse languages and dialects, required a language to unify the people and the nation as a whole. Which language could perform this mammoth task of uniting people and nation building? And the answer came from none other than the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi himself who had stressed the need of a national language. In his address to the Gujarat Education Conference at Bharuch in 1917, Gandhiji said that Hindi was the only language which could be adopted as national language because this is a language spoken by majority of the Indians. It had the potential of being used as an economic, religious and political communication link. After Independence, Hindi provided itself as a solution for unification of a nation which was reeling under the enormous pressure of multiple linguistic groups and the Constituent Assembly of India accepted it as the official language of the country along with English. The listing of Hindi as official language took place on September 14, 1949. National Hindi Day or Hindi Diwas is, thus, celebrated every year to mark the day. Today, over 40 crore Indians regard Hindi as their mother tongue.  As per census 2001, the share of Hindi speakers in the total population is 41%. Hindi is also the state language of the state of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Besides, Indian Diaspora settled abroad and others in countries like USA, Mauritius, South Africa, Yemen, New Zealand and Nepal, etc., across the globe also speak Hindi, making it the world's third most spoken language.
A Brief Introduction of Hindi Language
Hindi is a descendent of Sanskrit which is considered as Devbhasha and was spoken by the Aryan settlers in the north west frontiers of India. It belongs to the branch of modern Indo-Aryan languages of the family of the greater Indo-European languages. From Classical Sanskrit to Pali-Prakrit and Apabhransha, the language has passed through various stages of evolution over the period of time. The earliest form of Hindi, which was also referred to as Hindavi, Hindustani and Khari-Boli, can be traced back to the 10th century AD. However, the literary history of Hindi can be traced back to the twelfth century and in its modern incarnation Hindi is approximately three hundred years old.
Constitutional Provisions
The issue of Official language was deliberated in detail in the constituent assembly which decided that Hindi in Devanagari script should be adopted as the official language of the Union. This was the basis of declaring Hindi as the Official Language of the Union under Article 343(1). Part XVII of the Indian Constitution deals with the issue of official language. Article 343 reads as,
"Official language of the Union.-(1) The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.
The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
(2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement:
Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.
(3) Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of-
(a) the English language, or
(b) the Devanagari form of numerals, for such purposes as may be specified in the law."
At the time of framing and adoption of the Constitution, it was envisaged that English will continue to be used for executive, judicial and legal purposes for an initial period of 15 years i.e. till 1965. Besides, it was provided that the President may authorise the use of Hindi language for some specific purposes. Article 344(1) provides for the constitution of a Commission by the President on expiration of five years from the commencement of the Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of ten years from such commencement, which shall consist of a Chairman and such other members representing the different languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to make recommendations to the President for the progressive use of Hindi for official purposes of the Union. Article 351 of the Constitution provides that it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily, on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.
Government of India Initiatives
In accordance with the provisions of above mentioned Articles of the Constitution, the Official Languages Act, 1963 (amended in 1967)  was enacted which provided for continuing the use of English in official work even after 25 January 1965. The Act also laid down that both Hindi and English shall compulsorily be used for certain specified purposes such as Resolutions, General Orders, Rules, Notifications, Administrative and other Reports, Press Communiqués; Administrative and other Reports and Official Papers to be laid before a House or the Houses of Parliament; Contracts, Agreements, Licences, Permits, Tender Notices and Forms of Tender, etc.
In 1976, Official Language Rules were framed under the provisions of section 8(1) of the Official Languages Act, 1963. Its salient features are as under:
iThey apply to all Central Government Offices, including any office of a Commission, Committee or Tribunal appointed by the Central Government and Corporation or Company owned or controlled by it;
iiCommunications from a Central Government Office to State/Union Territories or to any person in Region "A" comprising the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Haryana and UTs of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Delhi, shall be in Hindi;
iiiCommunications from a Central Government Office to States/UTs in Region "B" comprising the States of Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, shall ordinarily be in Hindi. However, communication to any person in Region "B" may be either in English or Hindi;
ivCommunications from a Central Government Office to a State Government Office in region 'C' comprising all other States and UTs not included in region 'A' & 'B' or to any office (note being a Central Government Office) or person shall be in English;
vCommunications between Central Government Offices and from Central Government Offices to the Offices of the State Governments/Union Territories and individuals, etc., will be in Hindi in such proportions as may be determined from time to time;
viAll Manuals, Codes and other Procedural literature relating to Central Government Offices are required to be prepared both in Hindi and English. All Forms, Headings of Registers, Name Plates, Notice Boards and various items of stationery, etc., are also required to be in Hindi and English;
viiIt shall be the responsibility of the officer signing the documents specified in section 3(3) of the Act to ensure that these are issued both in Hindi and English
viii It shall be the responsibility of the administrative head of each Central Government Office to ensure that the provisions of the Act, the Rules and directions issued under Sub-Rule-2 are properly complied with and to devise suitable and effective check points for this purpose.
The Department of Official Language prepares an Annual Programme in compliance with the Official Language Resolution, 1968. The Annual Programme sets the targets for the offices of the Central Government with regard to originating correspondence, telegrams, telex, etc., in Hindi. It also calls for a Quarterly Progress Report from the various offices of the Central Government regarding achievements vis-à-vis the said targets. On the basis of these Quarterly Reports, an Annual Assessment Report is prepared which is laid on the Tables of both Houses of the Parliament. Eight regional implementation offices have been set up across the country at Bangalore, Cochin, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bhopal, Delhi and Ghaziabad to monitor the implementation of Official Language Policy of the Union.                                                                                                                            
As per section 4 of the Official Languages Act, 1963, a Parliamentary Committee was first constituted in 1976 to periodically review the progress in the use of Hindi as the Official Language of the Union and to submit a report to the President. The Committee consists of 20 Members of the Lok Sabha and 10 of the Rajya Sabha. In 1967, the Kendriya Hindi Samiti was constituted under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister as an apex policy making body to formulate the guidelines for the promotion of Hindi as Official Language of the Union. Hindi Advisory Committees or Hindi Salahkar Samitis in all Ministries/Departments have been constituted under the directions of the Kendriya Hindi Samiti. They are headed by the Ministers.
Besides, the Central Official Language Implementation Committee has been set up to review the status of use of Hindi for official purposes of the Union, training of its employees in Hindi and implementation of instructions issued from time to time by the Department of Official Language. In towns having at least ten Government offices, Town Official Language Implementation Committees have been constituted to review the progress made in the use of Hindi in their member offices and exchange experiences. So far 255 Town Official Language Implementation Committees have been constituted all over the country.
The Government of India confers Indira Gandhi Rajbhasha Awards on Ministries, Departments, PSUs and its various offices every year for effectively implementing its Official Language policy. It also gives away cash awards to its working/retired employees, Banks, Financial Institutions, Universities, Training Institutions and Autonomous Bodies for writing original books in Hindi. A special award scheme, open to all citizens of India, has been started to promote  writing of books in Hindi on all branches of modern Science and Technology and contemporary subjects. Various awards are also given at regional and local levels to promote the implementation of Hindi as the official language.
The Government has set up 119 full time and 49 part time centres across the country to impart training in Hindi language under the Hindi Teaching Scheme. There are five Regional Offices of Hindi Teaching Scheme located at Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Guwahati. These offices provide academic and administrative support to the Hindi Teaching Scheme in different parts of the country.  A new Regional headquarter has been established at Guwahati to fulfill the increasing demand of Hindi training of North Eastern region a new Regional Headquarter has been established at Guwahati and new Hindi training centres have been established at Imphal, Aizwal and Agartala.
 Kendriya Hindi Prashikshan Sansthan was established on 31 August 1985. Its objective is to provide Hindi Training through condensed courses in Hindi language/typing and stenography as also training through correspondence in Hindi language and Hindi Typewriting. The Central Translation Bureau was set up in March 1971 for translation of different types of non-statutory literature, manuals/codes, forms, etc., of various Ministries/Departments, Offices of the Central Government and Public Sector Undertakings, Banks, etc. Besides, Central Translation Bureau also conducts short-term translation courses for Central Government employees.
With the advent of new technologies, efforts have been made to develop application tools and software to facilitate the use of Hindi as Official Language digitally. The Department of Official Language set up its portal www.rajbhasha.gov.in., whereas websites of almost all government Ministries/departments and offices are in English as well as in Hindi. Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, What's App and others now provide their users an option to use Hindi. A recent report titled Regional Marketing in The Digital Age reveals that almost 60% of users in urban India access online content in Hindi, followed by Tamil and Marathi. The Government of India has also directed Hindi speaking states to give equal importance to the use of Hindi in its social media platforms. It has also asked all ministries and departments, PSUs and banks to give preference to Hindi while using official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Youtube, blogs, etc. Cash prizes have also been announced for the three persons who do most of their official work in Hindi. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently pointed out that Hindi language will soon be one of the top languages in the digital world, the future of Hindi looks bright as we are celebrating Hindi Diwas this year.
Background: The period of Prakrits and Classical Sanskrit (dates are approximate):
750 BCE:Gradual emergence of post-vedic Sanskrit
500 BCE:Prakrit texts of Buddhists and Jains originate (Eastern India)
400 BCE:Panini composes his Sanskrit grammar (Western India), reflecting transition from Vedic to Paninian Sanskrit
322 BCE: Brahmi script inscriptions by Mauryas in Prakrit (Pali)
250 BCE:  Classical Sanskrit emerges. [Vidhyanath Rao] 100 BCE-100 CE: Sanskrit gradually replaces Prakrit in inscriptions
320: The Gupta or Siddha-matrika script emerges.
Apabhranshas and emergence of old Hindi:
400: Apabhransha in Kalidas's Vikramorvashiyam
550: Dharasena of Valabhi's inscription mentions Apabhranshas literature
779: Regional languages mentioned by Udyotan Suri in "Kuvalayamala"
769:Siddha Sarahpad composes Dohakosh, considered the first Hindi poet
800: Bulk of the Sanskrit literature after this time is commentaries. [Vidhyanath Rao]
933: Shravakachar of Devasena, considered the first Hindi book
1100:Modern Devanagari script emerges
1145-1229:Hemachadra writes on Apabhransha grammar
Decline of Apabhransha and emergence of modern Hindi:
1283:   Khusro's pahelis and mukaris. Uses term "Hindavi"
1398-1518:Kabir's works mark origin of "Nirguna-Bhakti" period
1370-: Love-story period originated by "Hansavali" of Asahat
1400-1479:Raighu: last of the great Apabhramsha poets
1450:"Saguna Bhakti" period starts with Ramananda
1580:Early Dakkhini work "Kalmitul-hakayat" of Burhanuddin Janam
1585:"Bhaktamal" of Nabhadas: an account of Hindi Bhakta-poets
1601: "Ardha-Kathanak" by Banarasidas, first autobiography in Hindi
1604:"Adi-Granth" a compilation of works of many poets by Guru Arjan Dev.
1532-1623:Tulsidas, author of "Ramacharita Manasa".
1623:"Gora-badal ki katha" of Jatmal, first book in Khari Boli dialect (now the standard dialect)
1643:"Reeti" poetry tradition commences according to Ramchandra Shukla
1645:Shahjehan builds Delhi fort, language in the locality starts to be termed Urdu.
1667-1707: Vali's compositions become popular, Urdu starts replacing Farsi among Delhi nobility.
It is often called "Hindi" by Sauda, Meer etc.
1600-1825:Poets (Bihari to Padmakar) supported by rulers of Orchha and other domains.
Modern Hindi literature emerges:
1796:Earliest type-based Devanagari printing (John Gilchrist, Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language, Calcutta) [Dick Plukker]
1805: Lalloo Lal's Premsagar published for Fort William College, Calcutta [Daisy Rockwell]
1813-46:Maharaja Swati Tirunal Rama Varma(Travancore) composed verses in Hindi along with South Indian languages.
1826:"Udanta Martanda" Hindi weekly from Calcutta
1837: Phullori, author of "Om Jai Jagdish Hare" born
1839,1847:"History of Hindi Literature" by Garcin de Tassy in French [Daisy Rockwell]
1833-86: Gujarati Poet Narmad proposed Hindi as India's national language
1850:   The term "Hindi" no longer used for what is now called "Urdu".
1854:"Samachar Sudhavarshan" Hindi daily from Calcutta
1873:Mahendra Bhattachary's "Padarth-vigyan" (Chemistry) in Hindi
1877: Novel "Bhagyavati" by Shraddharam Phullori
1886:"Bharatendu period" of modern Hindi literature starts
1893 Founding of the Nagari Pracharni Sabha in Benares [Daisy Rockwell] 1900: "Dvivedi period" starts. Nationalist writings
1900:"Indumati" story by Kishorilal Goswami in "Sarasvati"
1913: "Raja Harishchandra", first Hindi movie by Dadasaheb Phalke
1918-1938:      "Chhayavad period"
1918:"Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachara Sabha" founded by Gandhi.
1929: "History of Hindi Literature" by Ramchandra Shukla
1931: "Alam Ara" first Hindi talking movie
1930's: Hindi typewriters ("Nagari lekhan Yantra") [Shailendra Mehta]
Our age
1949:   Official Language Act makes the use of Hindi in Central
Government Offices mandatory
1950:Hindi accepted as the "official language of the Union" in the constitution.
Source: www.cs.colostate.edu
(The Author is a Research Scholar in the Department of Social Work, Jamia Millia Islamia.
e-mail : vishnupriyapandey@gmail.com)