The Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS)’s recruitment test for Officer grade 1 and Office Assistant can now be given in English and in the regional languages of the applicants. This was stated by the Ministry of Finance through a tweet late on Friday night, after massive outrage by pro-Kannada groups over the compulsion of giving IBPS exams either in English or in Hindi.
Earlier on Thursday, the IBPS issued a notification containing the details of the examination. One crucial detail stood out glaringly – those writing the exam would have to give a mandatory English and Hindi proficiency test. This has angered several pro-Kannada activists and politicians in the state with former Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy lashing out against the BJP government both in the Centre and the state.
In a run up to the Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s Nirmala Sitharaman, the current Minister of Finance, had promised to ensure that the IBPS exams will be conducted in 13 regional languages. On July 4 this year, Nirmala Sitharaman also announced in Parliament that recruitment exams for Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) would be held in 13 regional languages, including Kannada.
Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya, too, had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha and had led a team of Karnataka MPs to impress upon Nirmala Sitharaman and a memorandum was submitted to her. Tejaswi Surya spoke about this in the Parliament after the then Chief Minister Kumaraswamy had said, “RRBs have been constituted to sub-serve the banking needs of the local people, with efficiency, by interacting with the customers in the local language. This will not only lead to better service but also provide employment opportunities to local people.”
However, when the IBPS released the notification on Friday, it had no changes with respect to the language policy.
Lashing out against the BJP, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, accused the Centre of cheating Kannadigas. “Central government has again cheated the people of Karnataka. They are taking the identity of Kannadigas for a ride. Does the promise of Nirmala Sitharaman and Tejasvi Surya mean nothing? This breach of trust is a spectacle for moral spinelessness and political ineptitude,” Siddaramaiah said.
The Karnataka Congress too opposed the Centre’s move and said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ignored the demands of Kannadigas. “Kannadiga demand of restoration of domicile clause prior to 2014 in IBPS exams are repeatedly ignored by Narendra Modi. Nirmala Sitharaman’s promise in Parliament to conduct exam in Kannada has also been dishonoured. The recent notification has humiliated Kannadigas. We demand justice to Kannadigas,” Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President Dinesh Gundu Rao said.
In 2014, the BJP government had issued a notification stating that IBPS exams can be conducted only in Hindi and English languages. Prior to this notification, the exam could also be conducted in regional languages. However, the latest recruitment advertisement mandates a Hindi and English proficiency test.
Taking exception to the central government’s move former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy too lashed out against the move to conduct IBPS exams only in two languages. “The central government has perpetually ignored the demands of Kannadigas regarding IBPS exams. In addition, the Centre has taken back the domicile right of Kannadigas. The Centre is heaping one wound upon another. Kannadigas are being given step-motherly treatment,” Kumaraswamy said.
The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) had made the IPBS recruitment test an election issue and had accused the BJP of depriving Kannadigas the chance of getting banking jobs. During the Cong-JD(S) coalition government's rule, Kumaraswamy had also urged Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi to review the language proficiency policy.
Speaking to the media on Friday, BJP MP Pralhad Joshi said that he would take up the issue with the Centre. "I will hold talks with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and push for a change in the policy," Pralhad Joshi said.