Syndicate Bank, Canara Bank and Hindi

Hindi Imposition through Banks

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, October 2007 (ID. 2007-10-02)
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1. Syndicate Bank does the Dirty Job

2. Arrogant, Imperial Nature of the Order

3. This is not a Victory


1. Syndicate Bank does the Dirty Job

Syndicate Bank WAS a private bank established in 1925 in Udupi, Karnataka State (a non-Hindi state). Indian Government, under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, nationalized it and 13 other banks in 1969 because of political and economic reasons. Thus the Indian Government became the owner and operator of the bank. As usual, once the Indian Government gets its hands on something, it becomes a vehicle for imposing Hindi on non-Hindi peoples.

Syndicate Bank and the other government-controlled banks forced its non-Hindi employees to learn Hindi, pass Hindi examinations and write a certain percentage of correspondence in Hindi (even if the bank branch is located in non-Hindi regions). This imposition and hardship to non-Hindi employees is going on for years but not many people other than those employees know of it. Employees silently bear the extra burden.

In August 2007, Syndicate Bank branch office in Puducherry required that anyone applying for clerical posts must have a Hindi proficiency certificate. Puducherry is a Tamil area and very few people know Hindi. This is a further push into the Hindi imposition territory by Indian Government (Presently Indian government owns over 65% of the bank shares, and thus controls its operations and sets bank policies.)

Puducherry Bank Staff Association staged a demonstration against this order on August 13, 2007.  Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), a political party in Tamil Nadu, announced a demonstration for August 20, 2007. Seeing the demonstrations and fearing that they may spread, Syndicate Bank withdrew the order.

2. Arrogant, Imperial Nature of the Order

We want to highlight the arrogant, imperialist nature of this order. A Tamil employee working in a Tamil area where few people know Hindi is required to have proficiency in Hindi (whether forced to learn after becoming an employee or required to have proficiency to apply for the job). However there is no condition that he/she should have proficiency in Tamil. A few years ago I went to a Canara Bank branch in Thanjavur. The person I talked to did not know Tamil. We were able to communicate because we both knew English. There are people in Tamilnadu who do not know English. They cannot talk to this man even though the bank branch is in Tamil Nadu. Yet a Hindi speaker from Uttar Pradesh can come to this branch, over a thousand miles away from his homeland, and talk and do business with any bank employee in Hindi. Why are we, the Tamil people, accepting this outrageously discriminatory policy of the Indian Government?

Our position is that there should be no requirement to learn Hindi before or after becoming an employee of Indian government establishments unless the office is located in a Hindi region. There should be a requirement to learn the local language. That is logical; that is fair. Anything else is Hindi imposition and we oppose it.

3. This is not a Victory

Yes, Puducherry Bank Staff Association's demonstration and proposed Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) demonstration forced Syndicate Bank to withdraw the outrageous order. We should not think of this as a victory over Hindi imposition. It is not a victory on two counts.

1) Non-Hindi bank employees are still forced to learn Hindi and pass examinations. That is a burden on us. Why should non-Hindi employees be burdened with learning Hindi? They could use that time to learn computer programming or accounting or business management or other such professional courses to improve their skills and get ahead in the job market.

2) Indian Government has the habit of backing off when their Hindi imposition is exposed and coming back again elsewhere or later. In mid-1980s, under intense pressure from the then Tamilnadu Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran, Indian government withdrew its order to replace Tamil news broadcasts at prime television watching time in the evening by Hindi news in the Doordharsan Chennai broadcast (this broadcast is seen in and around Chennai only and is different from the national broadcasts seen all over India). Then several years after the passing away of Mr. Ramachandran Hindi news was brought back to prime television time and Tamil news was relegated to a later time after most people have gone to sleep.

Is there an end to more and more Hindi imposition? Is there a way out of it for the Tamil people? Or, are we forever to carry the extra burden of Hindi? Are non-Hindi employees of Indian government establishments forever to spend time on studying Hindi instead of using that time to learn more useful subjects like computer programming, accounting or business management that may advance their career. Remember, Hindi employees do not have this burden of Hindi and may use the time to relax, enjoy life or study more useful subjects.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Some Tamil names are spelled differently by different people. Here are some variations of names used in this article: 

Thanjavur - Thanjavoor, Thanjai, Tanjore
Indira Gandhi - Indra Gandhi
Puducherry - Puthucherry (used to be known as Pondicherry)

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TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2008 (ID. 2008-03-f1-a-x)

Here is another example of Indian Government operated banks thrusting Hindi into Tamil Nadu.

I was a Union Bank of India customer in 2004. It gave free calendars to customers. The calendar was in Hindi and English. The bank branch was located in Tamilnadu. Vast majority of customers are Tamil speakers. Where is Tamil? What is the need for Hindi in a state where most people do not know Hindi?  Most private businesses in Tamil Nadu that give away free calendars give English and/or Tamil calendars. Why can't Indian government operated banks do the same? Indian government is using banks to push Hindi into Tamil homes.

Within a month after this incident, I not only closed my account with the Union Bank of India but also told the branch manager why I was doing it. I opened account with another bank.

T. Krishnan
December 18, 2007

(EDITOR'S NOTE: At the time of this writing, Indian Government owns 55.43 percent of Union Bank of India and thus controls its operations including language policy.)


1. How India's Official Language Policy is Hurting Non-Hindi Peoples (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2003.

2. More Articles on India, Tamil Nadu and Hindi Imposition

FIS080226    2007-a1d

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