Language Corridor: Need For India To Emerge As A Major Economy? – Analysis

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“Language has always been the perfect instrument of empire.” –Antonio de Nebrija Granidtica Castellana

Although, economically India is placed in the category of developing countries, yet, it is contradicted in terms of languages and cultural traditions given its richness. Politically and geographically, India is comprising of the 29 states and seven Union Territories. However, when question emerges in terms of languages and cultural traditions, it is claimed with the sense of pride that the country is rich with the heritage of more than 780 languages along with 66 scripts.

According to the survey of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) in context of the Indian languages, Northeastern India has one of the highest per capita language densities even throughout the entire world given its complicated history and the terrain. The richness of the languages is used to put the country in vantage point if it is handled cautiously and made the optimum utilization of the languages without discriminations.

It is claimed with the sense of pride that India is very rich in the heritage of languages and scripts on the one hand, and it is also painful to point out there are several problems are being faced by the country in the background of a diversity of languages and scripts. Even before independence, the language problem had become so dangerous which was manifested in terms of linguistic tensions.

In the post-independence, the language conflicts had become more critical as several states joined the language conflict list to oppose Hindi as well as to demand the creation of states based on languages. Later on, the Anti-Hindi imposition agitation of 1937–40 was followed by the Anti-Hindi agitations of Karnataka; Anti-Hindi Agitations of Tamil Nadu; Bengali Language Movements; Gokak Agitation; Hindi–Urdu Controversy; Konkani; Punjabi; Rajasthani and the Urdu Movements. The makers of the Indian constitution were visionary people. They had visualized the important place for various languages in the Indian constitution. The detailed provisions related to languages in Part XVII (Articles 343-351) have been incorporated covering the various dimension like Language to be used in Parliament (Article 120); Language to be used in the Legislature (Article 210); Official language of the Union (Article 343); Commission and Committee of Parliament on official language (Article 344); Official Language or Languages of a State (Article 345); Directive for Development of the Hindi Language (Article 351) and more provisions as well.

Notwithstanding, such comprehensive provisions related to languages uses, linguism had become major challenge for national and international politics, resulted in the persecution of the linguistic minorities by one state over the other, increasing of the regionalism and parochialism exponentially; emergence of myriad regional political parties; emergence of anti-national feelings; demand for separate states ultimately resulting into inter-state border disputes, etc.

To resolve the languages conflicts, the Three-Language Formula was put in place by the Government of India in consultation with the states (1956) and revised the same (1968) by emphasizing on the more or less on the earlier points. The emphasis included the points like the mother-tongue or the regional language and the modern Indian or foreign language not covered under (1) to be emphasized.

Throughout the world, language has remained an instrument of unity and integrity on the one hand and whereas on the other, the same has also been played a negative role in terms of the disintegration of the country, bilateral disputes, ethnic disputes, many more problems, etc.

It has been said that language has to perform functions and generally the same can be categorized broadly into four categories i.e. cognitive, (development of learners’ intellectual), instrumental (related language for material purposes), integrative (group membership); and cultural (cultural appreciation and understanding). In addition to this, language is an essential element of national identity. The language can be used as political and social elements in the process of unifying, maintaining and building of a nation/s.

Role of Language in Empire Building/Nation-building

Colonial history and language have been intertwined since the Roman empire. Latin was part and parcel of the colonized part and it replaced the Celtic and Germanic languages. The languages like English, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian had played a constructive role in expanding the imperialism through out the world.

During the 15th century, Portugal, Spain, the UK, France had sailed across the coast of Africa and Atlantic respectively to established their colonies and became top economies of the World. Even the 19th and 20th century were known as the British and the American Century respectively dominating the entire world covering the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of the colonies.

The languages of these countries had not lost their importance and spoken in the respective colonies more than their native languages even today. In the post-colonial era, English is dominating the many countries particularly India, North America, Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa etc. The language has also a critical role in the nation-building in terms of building socio-cultural ethos, political and economic framework.

Language Policy and Language Planning

Currently, India is aspiring to become a world power and world economy. What role of language would be in these pursuits? If any role is there, then what kind of language policy and language planning India should adopt, would remain a moot question before the policymakers? Thus, the first question is, what language policy supposed to be? Schiffman (1996: 5) has postulated that the language policy is grounded in linguistic culture. Schiffman (1996: 5) has defined the linguistic culture is as, “A set of behaviors, assumptions, cultural forms, prejudices, folk belief system, attitudes, stereotypes, ways of thinking about language, and religion-historical circumstances related to a language.”

Based on linguistic culture, Schiffman (1996: 3) defines the language policy as a “policy of a society in the area of linguistic communication—that is, a set of positions, principles, and decisions reflecting that community’s relationships to its verbal repertoire and communicative potential. ” He also defined the Language Planning as, “understood as a set of concrete measures taken within language policy to act on linguistic communication in a community, typically by directing the development of its languages.”

This view is strengthened by the Mohammad Hasan Amara and Abd Al-Rahman Mar’i stated that there is a close relations connection among the language, identity, and policy. How this postulation is relevant for India is an important question, as in the present scenario, India is aspiring to be a major power and major economy?

What Language Policy and Language Planning India Needs?

In this piece, the richness of language in the context of India has already been pointed out along with the major conflicts and problem out of multilingualism in India. It has been remained as a major challenge to decide what language for education, official use, link language between/among the states along with the demand for states based on languages to handled?

Although, partly this problem has already been sorted still covertly and overtly, often language keeps on lingering for the state/national politics. Still, the anti-Hindi feeling is existing in many states. Many states are alleging that their language is being discriminated.

To make the language as an asset is the most critical problem for the Indian policymakers. What language policy and language planning have to be adopted by India to promote its languages to pursue its goals of world power and world economy? In this respect, the authors believe that India is very rich in languages. The Indian languages may be promoted in Indian schools, colleges, universities. In the South Indian states, one/two North-Indian languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Bangla, Oriya and and vice versa Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam in the North Indian states may be adopted with the consent of those particular states.

According to the MEA (AR 2018), about 30,995,729 Indian diasporas residing in many countries. These people have well settled in their politics, economy, education and business fields. The new generation of the diasporas is not connected with the Indian languages drifting from their history, culture, economy etc. Marschak (1965, 10, 135-140) has argued that as why the use of language changes and preserved better than the other languages? For him, the choice of language for communications or the choice to learn is/are attributed to standards of the microeconomics and economic decisions of the individuals like purchasing a product to investment. It means language has an important role in the strengthening of country’s economy. In this background, in an isolated manner, no country can become a major power or economy. The country has to economically integrate with other countries i.e., through education via languages.

For the promotion of Indian languages abroad, there is a need to devise a language policy and language planning, how the same can be promoted aboard. The first step in this direction can be some foreign languages as part of Indian primary, secondary and higher education curricula. The languages of Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, can be made part of the curricula of particular Indian border sharing states.

Similarly, the countries where number of Indian diasporas is living in a considerable number, some arrangements/MoUs are to made/signed with their schools, colleges, universities, so that the young generation of the Indian diaspora along with the foreign students are to be connected with the Indian socio-cultural values, ethos, education, and of course economy at large.

Being Language Corridor: India Can Be A Major Economy

India can be characterized as a nation of pluralism, heterogeneous, multilingual, multi-culturalism etc. Diversity in unity is its strength. During the last seventy years, its political stability proved it as a successful nation despite have diversity in several terms.

Although, in the beginning, the journey of an independent nation, language has become one of the major challenges, with time, if not fully, at least, partly has been sorted out. However, it is realized that the richness of Indian languages has not been put to optimum utilization to expand its socio-cultural ethos, political, economic interests.

If multi-language policy and planning put in practice in Indian education, it has multiple benefits by creating social harmony, unity, the integrity of the country. It would also help in employment generation having positive impacts on the economy of the country. The young generation of the Indian diasporas would re-reconnected with India. The learning of multi-languages would become a bridge for unity, integrity and social harmony. It would have a positive impact on the promotion of Indian classical literature. It would enrich the primary, secondary, and higher education by enriching the curriculum, need-based, job oriented, and expansion of multi-dimensional research. The introduction of the Indian knowledge traditions, the Indian economy will be turned into knowledge economy. The outreach of the Indian Philosophy would strengthen the world peace.

If the language has the force in the nation-building and empire-building, naturally, the knowledge of multi-languages have indelible imprints on the international and bilateral relations of the country as well. Language creates natural bonds. Language could become a strong tool of diplomacy to resolve the many bilateral and multilateral irritants. The languages would create awareness among the diasporas/foreign people about the Indian culture, festivals, recipes, ornaments, education, philosophy, architecture, paintings and many etc. Ultimately, it would help in creating demands for Indian products having positive impacts on the Indian economy. Trade, investment, new technology, and increasing employments would be further strengthened by language diplomacy.

At last, it can be concluded that multi-language policy and language planning would make India as a language corridor by introducing this policy at the domestic and international levely. It would enrich the soft diplomacy, strengthening the cultural bonds, the attraction of foreign students, knowledge economy by reinvigorating the trade and investment; promotion of pluralism, multiculturalism, assimilation of socio-cultural values; reining in of terrorism, resolution of bilateral disputes and promotion of peace would take place. Thus, if India can be a language corridor, there is no exaggeration in saying that it can pursue its goal of major power and 5 trillion US$ economy soon.

*About the authors:

  • Dr.  Bawa Singh (AP), Teaching in the Department of South and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda
  • Dr. Rajinder Kumar Sen (AP), Teaching in the Department of Hindi, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda
  • Dr. Naresh Kumar Singla (AP), Teaching in the Department of Economic Studies, School of Social Sciences, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda

Dr. Bawa Singh

Dr. Bawa Singh is an Associate Professor, Department of South and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India

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