The Andhra Pradesh Telugu Akademi, which was first established in 1968 for the advancement of Telugu language, has been renamed as the Telugu and Sanskrit Akademi.

Bookshelves at the City Central Library in Hyderabad Image Credit: Paul Oommen
news Education Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - 17:48

On July 10, Andhra Pradesh’s Higher Education Department passed an order changing the name of the Telugu Akademi in the state to Telugu and Sanskrit Akademi. The Telugu Akademi was first established in formerly united Andhra Pradesh in 1968, for the advancement of the Telugu language. The state government’s decision to include Sanskrit under its wing, and to officially change the name, indicating that Sanskrit will henceforth be given as much importance as Telugu by the Akademi, has stirred controversy in the state. Leaders in opposition parties have opposed the change in name, calling it an act of neglect towards the Telugu language, while speaking of the decision in the context of the government’s intent to make English medium instruction compulsory in schools and colleges. Akademi officials continue to stand by the decision, however, claiming that it will only help the institution expand its scope and serve the Telugu language better along with Sanskrit. 

Telugu Akademi 

The Telugu Akademi was set up to work for the “promotion, development, dissemination, and advancement of Telugu language and literature in India and foreign countries,” and also to standardise technical terminology, promote research in linguistics, work for the advancement of Telugu script, evolve methodology for teaching the language, and to publish textbooks for intermediate (class 11 and 12), undergraduate and graduate programs like BA, BCom, BEd etc., books for competitive exams preparation as well as dictionaries and glossaries. After the state’s bifurcation, a separate Telugu Akademi was officially established in Andhra Pradesh in June 2020. At the time of its creation itself, the government order said that the “Telugu Akademi Society will also look after the development of Sanskrit language along with Telugu.” On July 10, apart from the name change to include Sanskrit, the state government also nominated Prof V Muralidhara Sharma, Vice-Chancellor of National Sanskrit University in Tirupati, and four scholars in subjects like Astrology, Telugu and Chemistry, into the Board of Governors of the Akademi, whose headquarters are situated in Tirupati. 

Objections to Telugu being sidelined 

Demanding that the name change be rescinded, opposition leaders have called the move ”an insult” and “a conspiracy to destroy the Telugu language.” Questioning the move, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu wrote, “On one hand, students from KG to PG are being distanced from Telugu medium, on the other hand, the Telugu Akademi is being weakened. As a Telugu person, I am saddened that the government is reversing the development of the Telugu language.” Both the BJP and the TDP have criticised the decision as one succeeding the move to introduce compulsory English medium instruction in schools and colleges. Members of the organisation Telugu Dandu also held protests in Vizag city demanding that the Akademi remain exclusive to the Telugu language. 

Read: How AP is switching degree courses to English medium with 'Tenglish' lessons

BJP Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao wrote to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Monday, July 12, saying the YSRCP government “has taken many decisions to downplay and undermine the importance of Telugu language.” He reminded the CM that compulsory English medium in schools has been stalled as the issue is stuck in court due to opposition from BJP leaders among others.  Narasimha Rao even cited the new National Education Policy (NEP), noting that it recommends the use of Indian languages in school and higher education. Incidentally, the NEP also promotes Sanskrit in school and higher education as part of the three-language formula.

Read: Mother tongue vs English: NEP’s recommendation on medium of instruction revives debate

Pawan Kalyan, head of BJP ally Jana Sena Party, had also called the decision detrimental to the Telugu language, saying the name change “reflects a loss of identity for the Akademi,” and could reduce the importance of Telugu in the Akademi’s activities. He suggested that a separate Sanskrit Academy be established instead of merging both languages. 

Chairperson of Telugu and Sanskrit Akademi Lakshmi Parvathi has refuted the criticism as “unnecessary and irrational.”  

“Earlier, Telugu Akademi used to print only Telugu books. But since the 1998-99 academic year, when Chandrababu Naidu was Chief Minister, the Akademi has been printing English, Maths, Science books. Even English medium books were being printed under the TDP government too. Bringing in new subjects has helped in the development of the Akademi. Adding Sanskrit will only expand the scope of the Akademi, and the two languages will be developed in parallel,” Lakshmi Parvathi told TNM, calling Sanskrit the “mother of all Indian languages.” “In its current form, Telugu is heavily influenced by Sanskrit and is inseparable from it. Especially the Telugu spoken in Krishan and Guntur is very much entangled with Sanskrit,” she said. 

GVL Narasimha Rao in his letter urged Jagan to withdraw the decision, saying otherwise “we will strongly oppose your government’s decision in every manner.” Responding to his comments, Education Minister Audimulapu Suresh told the media on Wednesday, July 14, “Those who are writing to the Chief Minister about technical courses being taught in regional languages must understand that to strengthen our technical vocabulary, we need to work on Sanskrit too.”

Funding concerns 

Another criticism of the move has been that the Akademi has remained under-resourced over the past few years, as a result of the bifurcation.  Pawan Kalyan pointed out that the Akademi has already been largely inactive due to a shortage of funds. “The funds that were spent towards the development of Telugu language so far will now have to be shared with Sanskrit too. This will further hurt the development of Telugu language,” TDP MLA from Repalle Anagani Satya Prasad said. 

The assets of the erstwhile Telugu Akademi are yet to be distributed between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and critics have questioned if the inclusion of Sanskrit could negatively impact the allocations of resources.  Earlier in February, Chairperson Lakshmi Parvathi had told The Hindu that the Telangana government had remained unresponsive in spite of repeated requests to release some of the joint funds to Andhra Pradesh. While it remains unclear if the inclusion of Sanskrit will bring any additional funds to the Akademi from the state government or Union government, as of July, Lakshmi Parvathi said that discussions are still ongoing with Telangana about sharing the joint funds. “Talks with Telangana are still going on, but including Sanskrit in the name is not going to affect the asset division in any way,” she asserted.  

Education Minister Audimulapu Suresh said that the division of assets between the two states is underway. “We have held discussions with Telangana Telugu Akademi over the past two days, and convinced them to hand over around Rs 180 to 200 crore which is our share. The Chief Minister has also approved release of funds for printing more books,” he said.  It is not true that funds will be diverted away from Telugu to Sanskrit development, he said. He blamed the TDP government for weakening the academy between 2014 and 2019 by failing to retrieve its assets from Telangana, and alleged that the TDP government  instead encouraged printing of textbooks by private establishments including the Sri Chaitanya and Narayana corporate chains.

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