Namma Banku Kannada Beku: After the Bengaluru Metro, it’s the turn of banks of Karnataka.

Now banks in Karnataka under fire campaign demands Kannada in banking procedures
news Language Debate Thursday, July 13, 2017 - 13:30

With the hashtag #NammaBankuKannadaBeku (Our Banks We Need Kannada), activists have been carrying out a sustained campaign against the absence of Kannada instructions in forms used for a variety of transactions in Karnataka banks. Over the last 24 hours, nearly 13,000 tweets with this hashtag have been hitting out at nationalised banks for promoting Hindi language use and completely ignoring Kannada.

With photos of challans, forms, and ATM screens, Kannada speakers repeatedly pointed out that customers who only know Kannada are at a disadvantage since they cannot receive basic banking instructions in their language.

The tragedy, activists pointed out, is that the trilingual formula for all printed material is mandated by the RBI itself in its Master Circular for Customer Service in banks.

Section 4.3 of the Master Circular, available on the RBI website, for instance says, “In order to ensure that banking facilities percolate to the vast sections of the population, banks should make available all printed material used by retail customers including account opening forms, pay-in-slips, passbooks, etc., in trilingual form i.e., English, Hindi and the concerned Regional Language.”

What has particularly infuriated supporters of the campaign is that most banks practice a campaign of Hindi promotion, with boards in the office that teach one new Hindi word concerning banking everyday.

Many also argued that the absence of Kannada from nationalised banks is doubly ironic since many of these banks originated in Karnataka, before being nationalised.

Even though the Twitter storm over Kannada use in banks kicked off only after the use of Hindi in the Namma Metro earned criticism, the issue itself has much older roots.

In March, for instance, the State-level Bankers’ Committee issued instructions to all banks in the state to use Kannada to primarily transact with customers. The SLBC had also told banks to set up a Kannada cell to promote Kannada among non-Kannadiga employees.

In September last year, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had pointed out to the SLBC that the trilingual policy was being flouted by banks and instructed them to ensure that day-to-day business was conducted in Kannada.

Siddaramaiah, has in fact, been making this demand to the SLBC from as early as 2013.