Neglect of regional language is dangerous
Vijay Darda : A serious incident happened last week. On the first day of the Budget Session of the Maharashtra Legislature, immediately after governor C Vidyasagar Rao’s joint address to both the Houses in English, the Marathi translation of the same should have been read out, but the members kept waiting for 20 minutes in vain. Meanwhile, the Gujarati translation of the speech was on the track. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, the education minister Vinod Tawde immediately went to the control room and started reading the Marathi translation of the speech. Naturally, the Opposition created pandemonium seeking to know why Marathi translation was not ready. The government also considered it a serious issue. Now it is being reported that the officer who was assigned to read the translation could not reach there in time. The government is considering taking action against him.
This incident raises a serious question. The question is whether justice is being done to Marathi language in Maharashtra? Is there any attempt to promote this beautiful and sweet language? Are we particular about teaching our children the best Marathi? Before exploring the answers to these questions, I would like to tell you that there was a great deal of thinking behind the creation of the states on linguistic basis. When the government functions in the regional language, the common man gets connected to it. The common man will be able to understand what his government is doing. The advantage of this is that people are able to convey their thoughts and feelings to the government. That is why the subjects related to the public interests such as agriculture, education, health have been kept in the state list. Almost all the states tried to follow this rule in the initial period, but English-mentality driven government system did not forgo its domination. After globalisation, the impact of English has increased so much that there is a big crisis facing regional languages.
I am not opposed to English at all. Knowledge of English is a must. Hindi is our national language, so the whole country should know good Hindi too, but this does not mean that we start neglecting our regional language. Do we see the dedication to the regional language as seen in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, in Maharashtra too? Marathi was given the status of official language of Maharashtra in 1966. From the point of view of statistics, Marathi occupies 15th place among the most spoken languages in the world. Going by population, Maharashtra is the second largest state in India. The state language of over 11 crore population is Marathi. But I constantly feel that the way Marathi is being attacked is a matter of grave concern.
Though Marathi as a subject is mandatory till 10th standard in Maharashtra, has it ever been analysed that what is the quality of Marathi teaching and its learning by children? Today in many homes, parents want their children to speak English instead of Marathi. Listening to the child speaking in English, they feel proud, but if the child starts speaking Marathi they become upset. Though such people are not insulting their mother tongue, they are according secondary status to it. Especially in the high and middle-upper classes, this problem is high. That is, it can be said that the person who progresses at the economic and social level appears to be linguistically closer to English. Just imagine what will happen after two generations? Then perhaps a lot of people may be speaking Marathi but they will be poor at the level of language. Then they would probably not even be able to read rich Marathi literature.
One thing to note is that development of any language is in accordance with regional culture. The sweet fragrance of that region is embedded in that language. Had it not been so, Sanskrit would have been the only language there. Why did so many other languages developed from Sanskrit? We have to understand that languages are not just the means of communication, but they are our entire heritage of culture. If we do not try to carry forward this legacy our regional language will become even more weak.
One more thing I would like to say is that Marathi language is not related to a person who is born in a Marathi-speaking family alone. Marathi language concerns every person who lives in Maharashtra. I would like to make it clear that if a person is Gujarati, his or her mother tongue would be Gujarati. But if he or she is staying in Maharashtra, his or her state language would be Marathi. It is essential for him or her to learn the state language here. Language is directly linked to bread and butter. If a Rajasthani person lives in Tamil Nadu, he learns Tamil without which his very survival would be at stake. Therefore, I believe that if any person is staying in Maharashtra, he must learn Marathi. I do not support Shiv Sena’s ideology. But I supported them when they launched the agitation to install sign boards in Marathi as well together with English. I believe everyone has the right to go, settle and do job anywhere across the country. But I also feel that the local Marathi people should not be neglected. There is a strong economic aspect to the language too. That is why the Chinese people are fast learning English and Hindi. And here, we are neglecting our own language.
Always keep in mind that the language develops at two levels; one at home and the other in schools. We will have to respect Marathi at home and make best of arrangements in schools for Marathi learning. But unfortunately, the government is not taking any initiative!
Before I conclude
According to a UNESCO report, India is at number one in disappearance of languages. Nearly 300 of the country’s 500 languages and dialects have become completely extinct. Nearly 2,500 of the world’s total 6,000 languages are listed as endangered languages. There are 199 languages or dialects which are understood and spoken by only 10 people and nearly 178 are such which are understood and spoken by only 50 people. This means, these languages and dialects will become extinct with these people.