The Minister said that there was no need for people in Tamil Nadu to learn Hindi, as they already know an international language, English, and a local language, Tamil.

File photo of K Ponmudi
news Politics Saturday, May 14, 2022 - 09:16

Tamil Nadu Education Minister K Ponmudi stirred a controversy while speaking on the language debate, suggesting that Hindi has been promoted as a tool to help people get jobs, but in reality, learning the language has not translated into better employment. The Minister said that there was no need for people in Tamil Nadu to learn Hindi, as they already know an international language, English, and a local language, Tamil.

“In Tamil Nadu, there are two languages – English and Tamil. While English is an international language, Tamil is a local language. What is the need to learn Hindi? They said we can get jobs if we learn Hindi... Do we get jobs now? Check the people who are selling pani puris in Coimbatore and Tamil Nadu. Whose shop? Who is it? All the shops are theirs only. All that happened in the past only. Now, we have English,” he said.

The Minister was speaking at the convocation ceremony at Bharathiyar University, where Governor RN Ravi was also present.

The minister also cited DMK founder C Annadurai, saying that he also spoke against Hindi imposition. He cited a story told by the DMK founder about a person who made two different-sized holes for a rat and a cat to enter through a door. “That person was then told the rat can also use the entrance meant for the cat. “We are learning an international language, English. What is the need for other languages?” he asked.

The Education minister went on to say that they are not opposed to the beneficial aspects of the National Education Policy 2020 — which encourages a three-language system —  but added that the state government was determined to only implement a two-language system. He added that students in Tamil Nadu are willing to learn other languages, but it should not be imposed. He said that Hindi should be an optional language and not a compulsory one.

Also read: Journalists fume at Bharathiyar University for distributing money to them at convocation

However, Governor Ravi, in his address at the event, denied Ponmudi's claims of Hindi imposition and highlighted Tamil's richness and wealth which he wanted to be spread across the country by enabling more people to learn the language. "An impression is created by some people that the Union government is imposing a language on Tamil Nadu or anyone. I think that is far from the truth. That is not correct," he said. "In fact, the whole thrust of NEP was to do the learning and teaching in the mother tongue, the regional language," he added.

After the minister's remarks triggered outrage on social media, he addressed the media and said that he intended to say that apparent Hindi-speaking persons came to the southern state in search of a job. "I meant they had come here only because they didn't find a job there," he said while indicating migration from different regions in search of a job is normal. Asked if his comments on pani puri sellers amounted to 'profiling,' the senior DMK leader said "not like that”. "Most of them are working in pani puri shops," he said.

The language debate was sparked yet again recently, as Union Minister Amit Shah suggested that people from different states should speak to each other in Hindi, and not in English. He said that "Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English and not to local languages.” At the time, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, as well as his Kerala counterpart and other ministers from Telangana had condemned the Union Minister’s statement, calling it an imposition of Hindi.

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