This Hindi – and Hindi alone – counsel is flawed


The 11th volume of the Report of the Official Language Committee submitted to the President of India recently, has re-ignited the anti- Hindi imposition debate.

A special status

The official language committee is a statutory committee constituted under the Official Language Act, 1963. Its duty is to review the progress made in the use of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union and submit a report to the President. The Act makes it obligatory for the President to issue directions “in accordance with the whole or any part of the report”. So the committee’s recommendations are required to be acted upon.

Recommendations of the committee and its criticisms:

  • The main recommendations of the recent committee, as reported in a section of the print media, are that
  1. Hindi should replace English as the language of examinations for recruitment to the government;
  2. Hindi should be the only medium of instruction in Kendriya Vidyalayas, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and central universities;
  3. It should be constitutionally binding on State governments to propagate Hindi, etc.
  • It is the special status of this committee’s recommendations which is crucial to the understanding of the official language policy in India. The recommendations have a mandatory character as is clear from the words “in accordance with”.
  • The remit of the committee is to review the progress made in the use of Hindi for the official purposes of the Union. The committee is not mandated to recommend the medium of instruction in universities and professional institutions. Further, since Parliament has declared by law that English shall continue along with Hindi, a statutory committee constituted under that very Act has no mandate to recommend the discontinuation of English.

Official language controversy:

  • The Constituent Assembly had witnessed a heated debate on the question of official language. Hindi was declared the official language of the Union and it was also provided that the English language will continue for 15 years from the commencement of the Constitution.
  • It was further provided that, if needed, Parliament may provide by law that English will continue even after the period of 15 years. Accordingly, Parliament enacted the official languages Act in 1963, providing for the continuance of English indefinitely as official language along with Hindi for the official purposes of the Union and for transaction of business in Parliament.
An official language is one that has been granted special status by a country, state, or other entity. Typically, the word “official language” refers to the language used by a government for example court, legislature, and/or administration.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • The Constitution states that, till 1965, English shall continue to be used for all official purposes of the Union.
  • Article 343: “The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.”
  • For official purposes, the international form of Indian numerals shall be used.
  • Also according to Article 345, the legislature of a state may adopt any one or more of the state’s official languages, including Hindi, like the language or languages to be used for all or some of the state’s official purposes. There is also no compulsion for the state to choose the language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • In the eighth schedule of the Indian constitution there are 22 languages that have been recognized (Originally 14 languages were mentioned).

Statutory provisions: Official Languages Act (1963) :

  • This act provides that English should be the communication language between the Union and the non-Hindi states. The act also provides that, The communication between Hindi and Non-Hindi states if done in Hindi then it must be accompanied by an English translation.
  • If a demand is made to the president and he is satisfied that a substantial proportion of the population of a state wish to use any language spoken by them to be recognized by that state, then he may direct them to recognize that language as an official language of the state. The main objective here is to protect the linguistic interests of minorities in states.

Drawbacks of Hindi imposition:

1. Fallout in non-Hindi States

India has seen great emotional upsurge, violent protests and immolations etc. in the country’s southern parts in the 1960s as a result of an attempt by the then Union government to exclude English and replace it with Hindi. So, Parliament had to provide for the continuance of English also to assuage troubled feelings in the southern region. The language issue has the potential to emotionally divide people.

2. Fallout in All India Services:

  • Once Hindi replaces English, the language used in the examination for recruitment to the all India services will be Hindi alone. Therefore, candidates from the non-Hindi States, the south in particular, will face a great disadvantage when compared to those whose mother tongue is Hindi. The result would be a gradual elimination of candidates from the non-Hindi region from the all India services.
  • The Constitution provides in Article 344(3) that the commission on official language shall have “due regard to the just claims and interests of persons belonging to the non-Hindi speaking areas in regard to public services”.

3. Political fallout:

  • The idea of one official language for the Union is a product of the freedom struggle which promoted Hindustani, a mixture of Hindi and Urdu. Later, when the Constitution was framed, the idea of Hindustani was given up and Hindi in the Devanagari script was adopted as the sole official language. In a country where there are two major language groups- Indo-European language group and the Dravidian language group– the idea of one official language may not go far in fostering the unity of the people.
  • Further, since the southern States cannot decide who will rule from Delhi and influence the decision making of the Union, it is all the more necessary to address the concerns of the people of this region on account of language.

4. A changing world requires English use

The mood of the Constituent Assembly was in large measure influenced by the freedom struggle. That mood slowly changed over the years as India began interacting with the world. By the 1960s, the political class realised that English was crucial in acquiring knowledge in science and technology as well as in other fields of human activity. Therefore, Parliament decided to continue with English.


The overwhelming public opinion in the south is that English should continue as one of the official languages. Today, the Union has Hindi and English as two official languages — as in Canada which has English and French as its official languages. In these circumstances, the policymakers should seriously think of making the provision constitutionally that both Hindi and English should be the official languages of the Union.

Addressing north India’s burning issue sustainably


With the start of crop harvest season, North India is bracing for a smoggy winter. Each year at this time, discussions begin on how bad this year’s stubble burning season will likely be and what potential ad hoc techno-fixes could solve the issue — in the short term. But the problem is a historic one that cannot be fixed with short-term, unsustainable solutions.

A problem that is historic

  • The root cause of stubble burning can be traced back to the Green Revolution of 1960’s that transformed the way agriculture was practised, especially in Punjab and Haryana. The economics of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of paddy and wheat, supported by a guaranteed buyer (the government) at minimum support prices (MSP), subsidies for electricity and fertilizers, and ease of access for credit in agriculture led to a crop duopoly oriented solely around increasing caloric intakes, supplanting the earlier diversity of crops grown in the region.
  • But this transition to a two-crop agricultural system has been depleting the water table, increasing pesticide and fertilizer use exponentially. It has also led to the consolidation of small farms into larger landholdings.
  • In an attempt to address the growing water crisis, the Punjab and Haryana governments introduced laws around water conservation, encouraging farmers to look to the monsoon rather than groundwater to irrigate their crops. The shortened harvesting season that arose resulting from this policy move brought about the need for farmers to rapidly clear their fields between the kharif and rabi crops; the quickest of these ways was to burn off the remaining stubble post-harvest.

No significant improvement

The repercussion of stubble burning is felt all through the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) airshed, where what is burned in Punjab and Haryana has an impact on air quality all the way down to Bihar and West Bengal. With studies showing a large contribution of stubble burning emissions on winter air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR), the demand for governments to act on this seemingly avoidable practice translated initially into a criminalisation of the act.

Recent status of air pollution due to stubble burning (2022):In October 2022, the number of crop fires reported out of Punjab are at a three-year low, suggests data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) that tracks such fires via satellite. Only 320 fires have been reported this year, as opposed to 620 and 1,935 in 2021 and 2020 respectively. The Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (CREAMS), run by the IARI, monitors stubble burning and provides daily reports.Meanwhile, on the back of air quality dipping in Delhi, the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on all construction and demolition activity unregistered with the authority.

More recently, in-situ solutions like happy seeders and bio-decomposers, and ex-situ solutions like collecting and using stubble as fuel in boilers, to produce ethanol, or to simply burn away alongside coal in thermal power plants, have been introduced, within little success. Economic incentives to reduce burning have also been tested with limited success. With crores invested in these solutions over the last five years, we have yet to see any significant improvement in the situation.

Recent initiatives:

  • Union Environment Ministry recently announced a ₹50 crore scheme to incentivise industrialists and entrepreneurs to set up paddy straw pelletisation and torrefaction plants. Paddy straw made into pellets or torrefied can be mixed along with coal in thermal power plants. This saves coal as well as reduces carbon emissions that would otherwise have been emitted were the straw burnt in the fields, as is the regular practice of most farmers in Punjab and Haryana.
  • Under directions from the Supreme Court-constituted Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA (now it has been replaced with a new statutory body called CAQM), the Centre is partnering with Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide farmers with a range of mechanised implements to clear their fields of paddy crop residue to prepare for sowing wheat.
  • Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) in Pusa had earlier developed PUSA Decomposers: capsules made by extracting fungi strains that help the paddy straw to decompose at a much faster rate than usual. The fungi helps to produce the essential enzymes for the degradation process. Delhi government started spraying bio-decomposer solution in paddy fields in the city to reduce stubble burning.

New regulatory body:

  • Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), intended to replace the Supreme Court-constituted Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), was first set up by an ordinance. Then it has been given statutory status by Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ac, 2021.
  • CAQM has superseding powers over older bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards (CPCB & SPCBs) of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.
  • Powers & Jurisdiction of CAQM:
  1. It can issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.
  2. Exclusive jurisdiction over the NCR, including areas in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, in matters of air pollution, and work along with CPCB and ISRO, apart from the respective state governments.
  3. It can impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore and imprisonment of up to 5 years in case its directions are contravened.

Way forward: Meaningful steps that are needed

  • The entire value-chain of agriculture in the region needs to change if air quality, water, nutrition, and climate goals are to be addressed. In practical terms, this means substantially reducing the amount of paddy being grown in the region and replacing it with other crops that are equally high-yielding, in-demand, and agro-ecologically suitable such as cotton, maize, pulses and oil seeds.
  • It will also require building trust with farmers to ensure they are seen as partners (rather than perpetrators) and providing them the financial support necessary.
  • At a policy level, it also requires recognising that agriculture, nutrition, water, the environment, and the economy are all deeply intertwined in the era of the Anthropocene. One cannot be addressed in a silo without having second and third order effects on the other.


A transition at this scale has not been witnessed since the Green Revolution, but it is what is required if we are to address stubble burning in the long run.


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