India Uncut

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Monday, November 21, 2005

The languages divide

Sudheendra Kulkarni writes in the Indian Express:
[T]he neglect of Indian languages, and the unstoppable dominance of English, is not limited to literature. It can also be seen in education, administration, judiciary, and commerce. The decline and slow decay of our native languages is one of the most worrisome socio-cultural phenomena in contemporary India. It has created a new class divide in our society — those who speak English vs. those who don’t, with the former displaying an all too visible superiority complex. Travel across rural and small-town India, and you’ll encounter persons who know only a smattering of English but rank themselves "higher" than a good writer in Assamee or Oriya who cannot speak English. It is this sad scenario that prompted Kusumagraj, a Jnanpith laureate Marathi poet, to bemoan in a different context: "Indian languages, through very rich in themselves, are in a pitiable condition today. They are like a person clad in glittering clothes but standing with a begging bowl before English-speaking power-centres."
According to Kulkarni, the solution lies in the government setting up a "National Board for Translation of Indian Literature." I'm not sure that approach will work, and I think the change will come more from private entrepreneurs and publishers, who have much more of an incentive to tap into latent demand or create it. The government would be better off enabling and incentivising such ventures in the private sector -- maybe via tax rebates -- than by spending taxpayers' money on it much less efficiently. To continue with Kusumagraj's analogy, these 'beggars' don't need charity, but well-paying jobs. The government can't provide that; only the market can.

Earlier posts on the subject: 1, 2. Link via email from Joby.

Cross-posted on The Indian Economy Blog.
amit varma, 11:47 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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