Dr Lorho, SBI exam and Lingua Franca
Language has been an emotional or sentimental issue everywhere. I am particularly talking about one's mother tongue. In the Indian subcontinent there are about 20,000 spoken languages (languages and dialects put together). Out of these, nearly 270 mother tongues are considered as languages of the country. Each language is spoken by at least 10,000 people. 123 languages are recognized as scheduled languages and 147 languages are considered as non-scheduled languages. Out of these languages only 22 main languages are treated as official languages and enlisted in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. In addition English is also still used as an official language.
It is not practical to run the education system (medium of instruction) of the country in all these languages. Then what should be the most suitable method. Since 1968 we have been following the three language formula. This formula was adopted by the Education Policy of 1968. Till today it holds good. The latest New Education Policy (NEP 2020) follows the same three language formula with some minor changes. To make it easily comprehensible these 3 languages are - Mother tongue or Local language, English and Hindi. We adopt this formula as it is workable to a great extent for this huge multilingual country.
My personal view is that we must learn more languages. It not only broadens your frontier of knowledge but also activates more parts of the brain. My request to all the students and youngsters is to learn more and more languages. I was told that our former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao knew 16 languages. Vajpai ji knew 7 languages, and Shashi Tharoor knows 4-5 languages.
The Indian Constitution recognizes 23 languages as official languages including English. 22 Indian languages are enlisted in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. Initially there were only 14 languages in the Eighth Schedule. Sindhi was included in 1967; Manipuri, Nepali and Konkani were included in 1992; then Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali were included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution in 2002. Ideally all the Central Government exams (admission or recruitment) must be conducted in all the official languages.
When the news came out that the NEET exam will be conducted only in 11 Indian languages (Eighth Schedule languages), I quickly found out that Manipuri is not included. Then I made an instant request to the Head of the National Testing Agency (NTA) Shri Vineet Joshi to include Manipuri language . He politely said, next time he will try. He responded positively because he has a moral responsibility as he belongs to the Manipur cadre. Again, honestly speaking the NEET should be held in all the official languages of the Union just like the Civil Services Examination conducted by UPSC.
I am not very sure about the power and functions of the SBI Junior Associates. If they are to deal with the public, they are supposed to know the local language. If a staff member is to sit at the payment counter he or she must be in a position to communicate with the customer in the local language. Because the customer may not be conversant in English or Hindi. So use of local language in the bank is appreciated. In good faith SBI might have thought of a link language or the lingua franca of the State. For instance in Mizoram there are about 12 languages/dialects but their link language is happily Mizo. What is the hassle here in Manipur ?
If people do not want to converse in Manipuri (Meiteilon) let them talk in English or Hindi; after all language is for communication. But the choices should be made available to the people. No coercion please. In the near future Artificial Intelligence will help us to bridge the language barriers.
I had gone through all the letters written by Dr Lorho, Hon MP to the Union, Hon Finance Minister, Junior Finance Minister and to our Chief Minister respectively. If I understand correctly he was simply insisting the competent authorities conduct the recruitment exam either in English or Manipuri or other scheduled languages of the State. If it is not possible to conduct the LLT (local language test) in all the 33/34 hill languages at least English language ought to be made available as a language option. Dr Lorho has the right to express the grievances of the people whom he represents. Honestly, Dr Lorho speaks impeccable Manipuri (Meiteilon) and I believe he has nothing against the language.
Can SBI conduct their recruitment exam for all the languages of the State ? That is perhaps not feasible. If it is not possible at least “English” must be made an option. Those who don’t understand Manipuri (reading, writing and speaking) may be allowed to take the test in English. For Meghalaya the local language test is going to be conducted in three languages - English, Khasi and Garo. We may do a similar exercise here. No hard feelings please.