Last week, a panel of experts under leadership of former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan submitted draft education policy to Human Resources Development department of Indian Government. This policy document has made several recommendations to improve quality of education. One of the sticking point of new policy is about importance given to Hindi. Some of the politicians from southern states are not happy about it.

When it comes to languages, India is very diverse country. There are around 32 different languages which are spoken by at least a million people. India recognizes 22 official languages. However, there is no National Language. Hindi is most popular language. So most people seems to treat it as unofficial national language.
Historically most southern states have opposed usage of Hindi. This opposition dates back to 1950s. As a result, Hindi speaking population used to be very small in South India. Over the years I have seen this changing. Hindi adoption in South India is improving. In April, I visited Mysore to attend a wedding. Our cab driver was speaking decent Hindi. When I was in Mysore for around 4 months on work assignment in 2005, that was not the case. I didn’t know Kannada (local language) and most cab / auto drivers didn’t know Hindi and/or English. Travelling used to be a nightmare.
Mysore is not the only place where this change has happened. I experienced something similar in Tamil Nadu as well. In 2005, I had spent couple of weeks in Chennai on business trip and had all sorts of problems with commute due to language barrier (this was pre Uber era). But during recent visits, I came across people who could speak Hindi.

One of the biggest driver behind this organic change in Hindi adoption is mobility. Number of Indians who are working outside of their “home state” is increasing day by day. I am a Maharashtrian working in Hyderabad (Telangana) for few years. In my cubicle, some of my co-workers are in similar boat. They are from different parts of India as follows –

  • Rajasthan (shifted from Bangalore to Hyderabad)
  • Andhra Pradesh (technically now a different state)
  • Jharkhand
  • Bihar
  • Odisha

Similarly people from South India are now working in different parts of country. When my wife used to work in Pune, most of her teammates were from (undivided) Andhra Pradesh.

The other factor behind this increasing Hindi adoption is Tourism industry. Over last few years, we’ve visited Vizag, Munnar, Kanya Kumari, Kodaikanal, Pondicherry, Mangalore, Bangalore, Coorg and Mysore. We were able to speak with Hotel staff, cab drivers, guides etc in Hindi. Here also converse is equally true. In tourist places outside South, people have learned southern languages to capture market share. Shirdi is very good example of this. Despite being in Maharashtra, you would find lot of people who are very fluent in Telugu.
Bottom line is, economic opportunity offered by tourism industry is too big. This sector is continuing to grow. Learning an “additional” language is going to help in economic growth…

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