Hindi subject compulsory = An economic sanction ?

Boilal Gangte
“Hindi will be made compulsory in North Eastern States till Class 10” pounds Shri Amit Shah, the honorable Home Minister of India at the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee in New Delhi. He reasoned by saying “Hindi is the language of India and it should be used by citizens from different States to communicate with each other. Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English, and not to local languages”. There are many nuanced phrases in this short translated verbatim, such as “alternative to English” or “not to local languages” etc., however that’s a discussion for another day. This deliberation is for a more mundane but serious reason, which involves YOU and ME.
As expected, there were myriads of refute from many quarters including outside North East. I’m sure Mr. Shah would have calculated much before and he must have his own well-structured follow-on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure). Afterall, he is the LOC (Lord of Chaos) and it is certain that things will oscillate back to order-ness very soon. Whatever the intention, one must not rubbish his idea and the context behind. It may have merits from a different perspective. One need to respect every perspective, because that’s what the core of “Unity in Diversity” is, the founding pillar of Democratic India. Having said that, let’s try and find out the perspective from the people who will have to face the music.
Is it a BENEFIT or a PRICE for North East India ?
There are many cultural, social and political reasons for labelling it as a “PRICE”. Because, for the people of North East, Hindi Language is Foreign, more foreign than even for the people of South, West or East who also are non-Hindi speaking. However, let’s leave those angles for the Politicians, the CSOs, etc. What may not be the obvious, but practical and relevant for the general mass in North East is the “Economic Implication” to the individual household.
Is it an opportunity drainer for the Young NE-ites?
A pre-lockdown article from Hindustan Times quoted a young Sakarwala “Everyone seems to get 90% or more in French, whereas in Hindi, they don’t seem to give more than 80 or 85% at most. And only a few get more than that.” An important and relevant point from the young aspiring Indian because 90% mark is an average for today’s college admission. Another case in point is Varsha Shetty, 15, a student of Bombay Cambridge School in Andheri (West) who ditched Hindi and opted for Sanskrit for her SSC exams citing “As a language, it is more scoring than Hindi”. Another one from NDTV quotes “One of the biggest worries for many CBSE Board examinees is how to score good marks in language and literature papers especially Hindi.”
Even when the mainland folks who grow up hearing Hindi Language find it challenging, IMAGINE ! how hard it will be for the Young North East to whom Hindi language starts off only when she/he crosses the chicken neck in West Bengal. The issues in this deliberation are three tiered.
First – It’ll pull down the average score !
It’ll not be wrong to say that marks or percentages to the young Indian today is equivalent to life. It’s that important ! An introduction of Hindi course, which is difficult and not high scoring is bound to pull down the average score. For clearer picture, let’s try using basic Math on the likely impact. For lack of data, let’s go by the above comment of the Young Sakarwala.
· Mark Possibility in French @ 90% and for Hindi @ 83 % (Average of 80% & 85%)
· Mark possibility GAP between French & Hindi : 7% (90%-83%)
· In 2020 CBSE Class X exam, students scoring more than 90% was 9.8%
· Let’s assume that the difficulty level of Hindi for North East students is 2 times (2x)
· Then the Mark possibility GAP for North East students will be @14% (7% x 2 times)
· On a total of 5 subject, the 14% will have 3% Impact (14%/5) on the overall percentage
The 3% impact is for the FIRST BENCHERS who are aspiring 90% plus in their exam. If you look at the student contribution of CBSE, this 90% COHORTs are just 10% at a PAN India level. Think of the remaining 90% students ! It’s almost certain that the 3% will shoot up and for some it may even be fatal. There are good chances that, the 90% cohorts maybe lesser for the North East region. Therefore, when the Hindi exposed students (if not speaking) find it low scoring, imagine what will it be for the non-exposed, non-speaking Hindi students. Will this Hindi Sanction deprive an aspiring student from getting into good school or will the lower percentage have a bearing in his/her lifelong career ?
Second - It is adding more loads to the already loaded bags !
While the uptown students in the capital cities like Imphal, Guwahati, Shillong, Agartala, Dimapur, Aizawl or Churachandpur may have the facility, capacity and exposure to deal with it, what about the downtown or the rural wannabes ? The Tombi from Kakching or Khamba from Sagolmang or Somatai from Ukhrul or Neunu from Santing ! To them it is a heavy unwarranted imposition, plain and simple ! When studying in itself is a burden for many, imposing a new subject with a new script, grammar and pronunciation has to be a MAMMOTH burden. The big question is, will this mammoth burden be addressed by every student, especially for people in the rural belts or lower income urbans ? What if some Young Aspiring NE-ites just give up and instead start picking up shovel or sickle for their livelihoods ?
Third-It is a drainer for the family exchequer !
Apart from buying a new book, a Hindi subject sanction will mean an additional private tuition for the family. Private tuition is assumed to be one of the “modern day necessary evils” as it unnecessarily drains the household income. By sanctioning Hindi, most students will have to add one more subject on their private tuition list. Let’s try and estimate with a simple Math on what will be the likely impact on the family exchequer.
· The weighted average Per Capita Income of North East @ INR 1.1 Lacs
· Monthly tuition estimates for a student @ INR 1,000 (This will be different from place to place)
· Average Yearly tuition @ INR 12,000 (1000 x 12)
· Impact of tuition for Hindi will be 11% (12K/1.1 Lacs)
The average North East Indian family will have an impact of 11% on their household income because of the Hindi sanction. The 11% will be even more, if you move down the income pyramids. To put things in perspective, let’s try and understand what this 11% means to the household. With “Mehangai or Price Rise” being the mood of the Nation for quite sometime now, let’s benchmark it with the Inflation rate, the CPI (Consumer Price Index).
· Average Inflation rate (CPI) of India in the last 10 years @ 6.3%
· Tuition impact @11%
· Tuition impact is 1.7 times more than inflation (11%/6.3%)
The last 10 years average CPI for India was 6.3% as against the tuition impact of 11%. This means the tuition impact on account of “HINDI SANCTION” is 1.7 times more pinching than the “Inflation or Mehangai or Price Rise”.
To Conclude !
The cultural emotions or the political egos will have their own places and let those interested people &bodies continue to do their D&D (Dramas &Dharnas). However, for the real YOU and ME, it is important to understand and be aware of what it translates to Us, Our family and Our children -The impact it will have on Our dining table, the impact on Our child’s school mark, his/her college admission, career etc.,because these are the real deal. Sadly ! we may not be able to do much, we can only be ready to fasten our waist belts, as we will have to face the consequence of this MELANCHOLIC MUSIC of our honorable HM for a very very long time.

The author is an IIM Bangalore alumnus, an entrepreneur and an independent analyst.