By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI: So our BJP president Rajnath Singh says the English language has been a “destroyer of Indian culture’’ and caused a “great loss’’ to India.
Anybody who has heard Singh speak will know his mother cannot be proud of her son’s English speaking abilities. Going by Singh’s logic, we should have been better off without our software engineers that service global clients or Indian Americans that are top professionals, both enabled by their ability to understand and converse in English with the larger world. Would the Indian economy be the market it is based on incomes of cycle mechanics and other low earners?
Hindi and other regional languages are important for communication, culture and ethos. But, they don’t make global citizens. They don’t make one eligible for high value jobs or meeting expectations of overseas customers.
English is the only skill set that Indians score over the overbearing Chinese. Imagine China as a software and services power house alongside the manufacturing advantage. What would we export, even as our oil and gold imports climbed? Hindi astrology lessons or spiritual discourses with English sub titles.
India’s English speaking including the loquacious TV anchors, have predictably reacted angrily to Singh’s comments. As a mark of protest, all of them should be requested to keep silent for some time. That would be a relief.
Rajnath Singh’s comments offer another glimpse of the virulently shrewd mind games Indian politicians’ play to influence voters. The aim is to make the voter think and reason less. The idea is to appeal to emotions in swaying the electorate.
There is no doubt that the political class in India today universally hates the emerging, pointing fingers, assessing, castigating, high on expectation and aspiration middle classes, usually well-versed in English, the language of socio-economic mobility and opportunity. The middle classes are taking to the streets, holding English placards, demanding that the government deliver.
They have shown a tendency to back Narendra Modi, given his promise of governance and growth. Otherwise Singh would probably have been very happy to portray himself as Prime Minister. Nitin Gadkare aspired to be PM, why not Singh?
Parties and political leaders such as Singh have it easiest if they manage to garner votes-based on caste, religion, linguistic affinities rather than having to work at performance, governance and constructive vision for the country, that the English speaking are most vocal about.
Thus the BJP periodically drums up Hindi, Hindu nationalism, Ayodhya temple hoping for some easy votes in the name of Lord Ram. Others follow the same game plan of minimum effort maximum gain.
Mamata Banerjee finds it convenient to point towards a Left party conspiracy even when a pair of chappals is stolen in West Bengal. Jayalalitha, meanwhile, has made sure Sri Lankan cricketers don’t get to bowl or bat in Tamil Nadu. Mayawati is the rich dalit goddess that her subjects revere and fear.
Mulayam Singh Yadav has ensured that generations of youth in Uttar Pradesh have grown up without knowing English, while his son Akhilesh Yadav studied abroad. Kids of politicians that look to stamp out English should not be allowed to learn the language. And, if they do, they should be made to spend the rest of their lives as English school teachers
In another ruse, in the run up to elections next year, the Congress has been desperately trying to revive its decades old defunct Garibi Hatao, pro-poor, social equity political strategy to divert attention from the multiple corruption scandals in CWG, coal or telecom and the failure to push reforms and growth.
Like criticizing those who speak English, this is another attempt to win votes via muddling the heart rather than exercising the mind.
To prove poverty reduction credentials of his masters Raj Babbar has said a hearty meal can be brought in Mumbai for Rs 12, while another Congress spokesperson has said, the same can be done for Rs 5 in Delhi.
Farooq Abdullah has apparently said a meal is available at Rs 1. Try giving a beggar Rs 1, he or she will throw it back at you. Perhaps, these leaders have been spending too much time at the heavily subsidized Indian Parliament canteen, probably the only working section of the grand building due to the overall adjourned status of our legislative functioning. Babbar, Abdullah and their colleagues need to step out in the real world. Given inflation, they will fail to buy even one tomato or worse an onion with the money that they mention.
(Formerly of the Times of India, Siddharth Srivastava is a Gurgaon-based freelance journalist. He blogs as mocking Indian)
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