Hindi and Tamil Telegrams

No More Tamil Telegrams in Tamilnadu

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2006 (ID. 2006-08-01); Updated July 2012
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[LATE NEWS: All telegraph services in any language were ended in 2013 because e-mails took over. The incidence we are discussing here took place 8 years earlier in 2005 when Hindi and English telegraph service was available throughout India.]

English was the only language in which telegrams could be sent in Tamil Nadu during the British rule. After the British rule ended and the Hindian-dominated Indian government was formed in 1947, Hindi was also soon added. Telegrams could be sent in English or Hindi in Tamil Nadu and everywhere in India. After decades of requests and pleas from Tamil leaders, Indian government finally agreed to facilitate Tamil telegrams in some telegraph centres in Tamilnadu from January 14, 1994. (A special thanks goes to Congress leader Mr. Kumari Anandan who relentlessly worked to introduce Tamil telegrams. It is seldom that Congress leaders from Tamilnadu do something for Tamil. Kumari Ananadan is one of the few exceptions.)

Even then, only a limited number telegraph centers, mostly in major cities and towns, had Tamil telegraph facilities. This is unfortunate because it was the smaller towns closer to rural areas that needed Tamil telegraphs the most because not many knew English in these areas. People who do not know English and know only Tamil do send telegrams. May be not as many as those who know English but they do send telegrams and those telegrams are sometimes very important to them. Once in our village a villager who knows only Tamil received a telegram in English. I had the unfortunate task of translating the telegram to this elderly gentleman. The telegram told of the untimely death of his son in an accident in the town he was working. His daughter-in-law might have asked someone to write the English telegram. I know many instances where the death of a father or mother in the village was telegraphed to the children in far away cities.

In 2005, Indian government closed down Tamil telegraph facilities in all or most of the telegraph centers in Tamil Nadu (while Hindi and English telegrams could be sent from any telegraph center in Tamilnadu). The Indian government stated that it was doing so because not many people are sending Tamil telegrams.

A few question beg to be asked. If the number of telegrams sent in Tamil is the criterion, how many telegrams are sent in Hindi from Tamil Nadu (other than those sent by Indian Government offices which are forced to send certain percentage of communications in Hindi)? If that number is small, why are Hindi telegraphic facilities in Tamil Nadu still operating in every telegraphic center in Tamil Nadu? Use the same yardstick used to shut down Tamil telegraphic facilities. We also want to point out that lack of Tamil telegrams inconveniences at least some people in Tamil Nadu who know only Tamil. There is no need for Hindi telegrams because those Hindi speakers living in Tamil Nadu know either English or Tamil. If not, they should. Why should a Hindi speaker from over a thousand miles be able to send Hindi telegrams from Tamil Nadu, even though a Tamil speaker cannot send a Tamil telegram from his own native Tamil Nadu?

A German can send a German telegram in Germany. A Thai can send a Thai telegram in Thailand. An Armenian can send an Armenian telegram in Armenia. A Tamil should be able to send a Tamil telegram in Tamil Nadu.

We have some related questions too.

  1. Why are Hindi signboards installed in post offices, railway stations and other government offices in Tamil Nadu? How many people read them? What is the need for them? 
  2. Why are Hindi inscriptions in national highways in Tamil Nadu? How many drivers read them? What is the need for them?
  3. Why are so many Hindi movies shown in Indian-government operated broadcast television channels (even in regional channels seen only in Tamil Nadu)? Television ratings clearly show that far more people watch Tamil movies on television than Hindi movies. So replacing Hindi movies by Tamil movies in Tamil Nadu would not only benefit most Tamil Nadu viewers but also would bring in more advertisement revenues. 
  4. Why is Hindi news broadcast at prime time and Tamil news broadcast later at night in Chennai? How many people in Tamil Nadu watch Tamil news and how many watch Hindi news? Please note that we are discussing Indian government operated free broadcast channels and not satellite or cable channels that are not free.
  5. Why did the Indian Government order pharmaceutical industry (drug industry) to print drug labels in English and Hindi in Tamil Nadu? How many people in Tamilnadu read the labels in Hindi and how many would in Tamil?  I can add more but will stop with just five cases.

UPDATE (July 2012)

While the Indian Government shutdown Tamil telegraph facilities in most post offices in Tamil Nadu saying that not many people are sending Tamil telegrams, it has no hesitation in wasting taxpayer monies for publishing an Indian Railways advertisement in Hindi in the largest circulation Tamil newspaper Thinathanthi. The Indian Railways advertisement in Hindi appeared in Thinathanthi on May 24, 2012. Tamil telegrams did serve people who knew neither English nor Hindi as we discussed in the article above. On the other hand, the Hindi advertisement in a Tamil newspaper serves no useful purpose. Everyone who reads Thinathanthi knows Tamil and very few of them know Hindi. So does it not make sense to place the Indian Railways advertisement in Tamil? This is just Hindi arrogance and display of Hindi power in India. You can read more about it in Reference 1.


1. Hindi Advertisements in Tamil Newspapers: Does it Make Sense? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, February 2007 (9 KB) (h)


1. More Articles on Hindi Imposition

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