Indian government, Hindi and computers

Hindi and Computers

P. Kumaresan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 1998 (ID. 1998-01-02)
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"If computerization has to spread in India, it has to be done in Hindi", so said the then Director of Bhaba Atomic Research Center a decade ago in 1988. What a stupid statement! This is, an educated and intelligent scientist heading a premier research center in India. He could have said this only to please the Hindi politicians who hold the reins of power in India and thus hold the key to advancements in the upper echelons of Indian bureaucracy.

As far as Hindi politicians are concerned, propagation of Hindi comes before anything else whether it is alleviating poverty in the country or improving the literacy levels and health care of the people. Those high level bureaucrats who play along with them get the promotions and move ahead. Have you ever heard of a high level officer in the Indian bureaucracy speaking against the imposition of Hindi? Show me one, and I will show you an officer who was sidelined and stagnated. This is the reality of India that is Hindia.

Let us examine the logic, or lack of it, in the statement of the former director of the Bhaba Atomic Research Center. What is logic of his assertion that only the use of Hindi will spread computerization in India? We can understand that the use of Hindi will make it easier for Hindi speaking people to work with computers and thus help spread computer usage in Hindi speaking areas like Uttar Pradesh and Madya Pradesh. How will it help spread computerization in Tamil Nadu or Kerala or West Bengal or Andra Pradesh or Nagaland or Karnataka? Obviously these "peripheral" areas away from the Hindi heartland do not matter. To the Hindi politicians, India means Hindi heartland. If we look at the Bhaba Atomic Research Center Director's statement within this framework that only the Hindi heartland matters and the other areas do not count, then it makes sense. His statement squares right with the attitude of Hindi politicians that "being an Indian means knowing Hindi". That is their criterion for being an Indian of good standing. Government of India will do everything to benefit Hindi speakers. If you did not have the good fortune of being born in Hindi heartland, then you have to learn Hindi to benefit from the millions and millions of rupees that the Indian government spends on developing Hindi.

The Indian government has spent millions and millions of our tax money to develop computer technology and software in Hindi. This means two blows to Tamils and other non-Hindi speaking Indians. One: Why should we, the non-Hindi-speakers, pay taxes to develop science, computer technology and software in Hindi? That money could be spent on things that will benefit all Indians, not just Hindi speakers. Two: It may take ten years, may be twenty, but once full-pledged computerization is made possible in Hindi, Government of India will insist that all central government employees do all government business using computers in Hindi as much as possible. Non-Hindi employees will have to learn computerized word processing, spreadsheet, database management, etc. in Hindi, thus giving Hindi-speaking employees a head start. Already many Tamils in central government employment are murmuring that they are sidelined in promotions because while they are forced to learn Hindi and are spending valuable time on it, Hindi-speakers concentrate on other more relevant subjects and their work, and move ahead. (The steady decline in the percentage of Tamils in Indian government jobs during the past decade in an indication of this sad fact.)

In summary, the taxes we pay foot the bill for the development of Hindi in computer usage, and then we end up losers in Indian government jobs because of the use of Hindi there. We get it from both barrels of the Hindi gun. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Presently computer software in Tamil are being developed by private organizations and individuals with no support from the Indian Government. Five or ten years from now the Indian Government, under criticism, may provide some funds for Tamil also. Those who may be reading this article in those years should check the comparative funding for Hindi and Tamil. Indian Government practice in language matters is "too little, too late".]

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