The ‘ache din’ of Hindi language?

The past week saw a huge debate erupt as the Prime Minister of the country decided to promote Hindi as the Government’s official language on all social media interfaces. During a session with SAARC leaders, Narendra Modi consciously made use of our “raashtrabhaasha” and in his meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Rogozin, Modi chose to opt for Hindi as the language of communication. He seems to be explicitly pronouncing a paradigm shift in the language discourse of the subcontinent. Language is not an innocent exercise of uttering well framed sentences as it is portrayed to be. It is a framework of intense power networks and a political manoeuvre.

Is this move by the newly elected right wing government an insidious attempt at imposing Hindi as the binding language across the nation? Is it an unwinding mechanism of the otherwise elitist use of English in the nation? Or is it merely a nationalist affirmation of one’s cultural heritage. In a post-modern world, where hegemony of structures and Meta narratives has seen erosion, the issue becomes a complex one. The BJP Government has been in quite a debacle over its right wing hindutva stance. In a situation like this, is the move to promote Hindi a wise one is what one needs to explore.

Picture Courtesy – The India Express

Suffering from a colonial hangover even after 67 years of independence, Modi’s Hindi rhetoric might signal the end of a hegemonic control that English has enjoyed in our country. The hierarchization of Hindi as standing below English could have been one of the reasons for the Prime Minister’s decision. Modi’s new agenda could be seen as exemplifying his connection to his motherland, an attempt to assert the same. As a denial of Eurocentric stereotypes, the decision could be a way to reclaiming a shared past. In one his tweets, Mr. Mukhtar Naqvi, states that there is “need to dispel the perception that only English-speakers in the country were intelligent”.

However, the issue has faced the flak of many.

India has 22 official languages, in sync with its rich cultural background. But only 40% of India’s population speaks Hindi. In the face of cultural diversity of speech and mind, Modi’s move has been criticized by politicians and the common man alike. Jayalalithaa Jayaram, chief minister of southern Tamil Nadu state wrote to Mr. Modi on Friday asking him to make English the official language as the “push for Hindi is a highly sensitive issue and causes disquiet to the people of Tamil Nadu.” Shobha De, in a Times of India article, has launched caustic remarks at Modi’s decision, asserting that the there will be many to accuse his sarkar of ‘ullu banaoing’ the nation if he pushes Hindi down their throat.

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The idea of a nativist approach to counter a nation obsessed with English may not work in along term scenario. Asserting an Indian identity can be achieved without forcing government officials to use a language they might not be comfortable with. Language has been used not only as a weapon of mass mobilization but also as a tool to dominate and suppress the disenfranchised. Language is a means to communicate and strengthen culture, but in a country that enjoys linguistic richness the problem becomes far too complicated. For many, the move comes as a disavowal of other languages spoken in the country, a legitimate reason for concern.

For a leader who still carries the baggage of post-Godhra riots, the decision seems to have awakened a tinge of fear in the common man. Anti-Hindi sentiment has a long and rather ‘bloody’ history, especially in states like Tamils Nadu. Even though the country needs a patriotic fervor to move on, the latest move of Narendra Modi may or may not work towards achieving the goal of ‘ache din’ coming.

China gets nod to set up industrial parks in the country

New Delhi: The Indian government on Wednesday gave a green signal to its northern neighbour China to set up industrial parks in the country. The move comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meet with China’s Premier Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit to be held in July.

Vice President Hamid Ansari. AFP
Vice President Hamid Ansari. AFP

The Cabinet approved in principle a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and China to set up industrial parks in order to boost relations and pump up the manufacturing sector growth. According to Law and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, “Cabinet today has approved in-principle an MoU with China with regard to establishment of industrial parks. The details and the contours of the MoU would be given once it is signed.”

The MoU is expected to be finalised when Vice-President Hamid Ansari visits China between June 26-30 along with Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Signing of the MoU with China will help India improve a $40 billion trade deficit and reduce imports of Chinese goods. Through this agreement the new Modi-led government aims to grow the manufacturing sector of India in order to revive the county’s economy.

Earlier the UPA government had not cleared the MoU partly because of security concerns about Chinese firms setting up plants and industries inside the country and also as the general elections were just around the corner.

In 2013 during the fifth India-China strategic dialogue both nations had recognised five states- Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka where the parks could possibly be set up.

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Government websites get restored after minor technical glitch

New Delhi: Several websites of the Government of India, including the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) website, were temporarily out of order due to a technical glitch. The PMO’s website along with other key websites such as the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, the Finance Ministry and the Defence Ministry websites were down for a few hours. Any attempt to view these websites returned a message, “the specified URL cannot be found”.

Picture Courtesy – NDTV

Officials of The National Informatics Centre (NIC), which hosts all government websites’, were looking for outages within their servers. The Press bureau of India (PIB), which denied any involvement of hackers stating, “Govt clarifies that there was no cyber-attack or hacking of Govt websites. Due to malfunctioning of some equipment, some sites were down.” All websites were restored after a few hours.

Govt postpones hike in natural gas prices, Reliance suffers setback

New Delhi: In a major setback to Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), the NDA government on Wednesday decided to postpone the proposal for revision of natural gas prices by three months in the wait for a comprehensive review which would be acceptable to all sectors.

Representational Image. Reuters
Representational Image. Reuters

The current rate of USD 4.2 per million thermal units (as per British standards) will continue until September end, said Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

The new Government was intending to hike the prices from July 1 to USD 8.4 per million thermal units, a decision taken by the previous UPA government. In this regard, the Oil Minister has been in discussions with the Prime Minister since Friday and postponing the hike until September was seen as the best solution.

The repercussions of every dollar hike would lead to an increase in gas prices upto Rs 1,370 per ton rise in urea production cost and 45 paise per unit increase in electricity tariff. Additionally, it will lead to a minimum of Rs 2.81 per kg increase in CNG price and Rs 1.89 per standard cubic meter hike in piped cooking gas.

The gas price revision was one of the immediate decisions the government intended to take to revive investor interest in the stagnant oil and gas sector. The country’s natural gas output has been on the decline. It has spiralled down to 35.4 billion cubic metres (FY14) compared to 47.56 bcm the previous year.

A panel headed by C.Rangarajan had proposed the the hike in natural gas prices which was to take effect from 1 April, however, with the general elections around the corner, the proposal was deferred.

However, there are some issues in implementing Rangarajan’s formula, such as whether Reliance Industries’ foreign partners- BP and Niko resources- should be allowed to charge the higher prices, whether the pricing should be on gross calorific value or net calorific value, among others.

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The game of CAG

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In October last year, 700 excited students from across the country crowded the Thyagaraj stadium in Delhi eager to share with the world elaborate solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems. What they however were forced to witness was propaganda in its truest form meted out by one BJP member after another, only to be wrapped up by a populist speech by the chief guest, Narendra Modi himself. Students sat there grim faced, having been allowed to only present for two minutes each while the members of the saffron party droned on, unabashedly thrashing the Congress, all the while soliciting votes. These students were all participants of a competition called chock-Manthan, organised by a group that called itself the Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG).

Formed in June 2013, just in time for the electoral race, this not for profit organisation comprises some of the brightest young minds in the country. Graduates from IIT, IIM, NIT, Harvard, Stanford and the like gave up high paying corporate jobs to form this initiative. Their 60 full time members get a monthly ‘sustenance allowance’ which is nowhere close to the remuneration of their previous jobs. “It was not the money that drew us to this,” says Anish Bharadwaj, a graduate from NIT and a key CAG strategist. “We were a group of people who wanted to play a more active role in deciding who will lead the country our country. When we first started Mr.Modi was extremely supportive,” he adds.

CAG has been the mastermind behind several initiatives such as Chai Pe Charcha and Sankalp, which are aimed to promote brand Modi. Registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, they claim to have no political origins. “As an organisation, we are not politically rooted to any party. For the 2014 elections, by our collective judgement, we have decided to back Modi and work by his mandates. For the next elections, you might even see us supporting AAP,” says Anish. All the members of CAG, according to Anish, do not support Modi ideologically.

However, their official website tells a completely different story. Chock-full of content that is pro-Narendra Modi, it is easy to mistake it for more of fan page created by loyal followers. One opinion poll question reads – ‘After Rahul Gandhi accepting that there could be Congress involvement in the Sikh riots, should there be an SIT to reinvestigate?’ while another survey published claims that 97.78% of people want Modi as PM and only 1.14% want Rahul Gandhi. Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t feature in the list at all. “We did not realize the content was misleading. We will look into it,” is all Anish has to say on the matter.

The CAG have been over the last year, affecting people’s perception of Modi and many have accused them of being a disguised PR agency. “We believe in value added service that will eventually benefit the public at large. For example, we take surveys of what the pressing problems are in a region and give the information to Mr. Modi,” says Anish. “ However, I can’t disagree that there is a lot of indirect PR where we may have an effect on people’s opinions,” he adds hesitantly.

Rahul compares Modi to Hitler


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Rahul Gandhi, scion to the ruling party, Congress on Tuesday compared Narendra Modi, candidate from opposition party BJP, to Adolf Hitler. Modi recently has been topping the list of most of the opinion surveys regarding the popular choice to lead the government. He has been promising to get the country out of the economic downfall that is it on right now and to create more job opportunities for its growing population.

Rahul Gandhi commented on Modi saying that he is an autocrat who could not even stop the religious riots in 2002 in his own state, Gujarat. The riots had killed more than thousands of people. Narendra Modi never admitted to anything regrading the riots and even the Supreme Court couldn’t find any evidence that pointed towards his involvement.

Congress has been on continually losing it’s popularity amongst the people under a number of corruption charges.

Modi questions Article 370

Narendra Modi at a rally in Jammu
Narendra Modi at a rally in Jammu

New Delhi: The last few days have witnessed heated arguments between the BJP leaders and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah over abrogating Article 370 which gives special status to the state.
Trouble erupted when Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi said there needs to be debate on whether the Article has benefitted the state. Supporting his stand, BJP spokesperson, Nirmala Sitharaman said that ‘the state was missing out on all the great legislations which have been passed in the country from being reaching J&K.’
They further argued that children of women married to non-residents of the state were denied the rights to inherit property, education, jobs etc.
However, Omar Abdullah challenged Modi that he was ready to debate on this issue ‘anywhere, anytime.’ He hit out at Modi for mixing Article 370 and the state’s residency law which is a separate law exclusive to the residents of J&K. He warned that the attempts to politicise this issue would weaken the relationship between the state and rest of the country.
Farooq Abdullah, father and ex-Chief Minister of the state further lashed out at the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate saying that the article would not be done away with even if Modi became the PM.