The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: By unjustly favouring Hindi, the Union government is stirring a hornet’s nest

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Lingui-stick

Among the factors that led to the creation of modern standard Hindi in the nineteenth century, were the large numbers of Bengali bureaucrats who served in north India under the Raj. Historian Alok Rai writes that the then nascent Hindi language looked up to Bengali – already used extensively for literary purposes – for how to develop into a literary language.

It was, therefore, more than a bit ironic that President Pranab Mukherjee, a Bengali, on Monday signed a presidential order that made it compulsory for all government dignitaries, himself included, to compulsorily deliver public speeches in Hindi. The president was accepting suggestions from the Committee of Parliament on Official Languages. Other suggestions from the committee include incorporating Hindi into airline tickets and in-flight reading material. Mukherjee also granted his “in-principle approval” to making Hindi a compulsory subject from Class 8 to Class 10 in all Central Board of Secondary Education and Kendriya Vidyalya schools. Moreover, the committee also suggested that universities in non-Hindi-speaking states offer students an option to answer examinations and interviews in Hindi.

All in all, this flurry of activity left little doubt in anyone’s mind that the Union government preferred Hindi to the other languages of the Indian Union and was prepared to impose it incrementally on non-Hindi states.

This is nothing new. The Union government has followed this policy since 1947 . Hindi along with English are the only languages used by the Union government for its business. Given that only 26% of Indians speak Hindi, the majority of Indians are unable to access the workings of their own federal government. This push towards Hindi, however, has only become stronger with the Modi government taking power, given that the Bharatiya Janata Party – and earlier, its predecessor the Jan Sangh – has a long time policy that advocates for Hindi as a national language for all of India.

New Delhi’s push towards Hindi follows standard models of nationalism, given that almost every country in the world is organised around a language. In that, however, it must be recognised that Indian nationalism is different. Given that India’s many regions have rarely been united politically, they have their own linguistic traditions that have histories and roots that are much deeper than Hindi. While monolingualism might underpin most nationalisms, imposing Hindi will, on the contrary, severely fracture Indian nationalism.

If any reminders are required, the example of India’s twin Pakistan is stark. The country split along linguistic lines in 1971, giving rise to Bangladesh after West Pakistan imposed Urdu on East Pakistan.

Already in India, there is disquiet over the Modi government’s Hindi push. Referring to the CBSE order, West Bengal MP Saugata Roy said, “The Centre should have been more cautious before implementing the decision in non-Hindi speaking states.” MK Stalin, leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also voiced his disapproval. Earlier in March, Stalin had warned the Modi government of “Hindi hegemony” given that it was using Hindi on road signage even within Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu has seen violent protests against Hindi in the 1960s, after it was made compulsory by the Union government. As a result, in 1967, the Indira Gandhi-led Union government adopted a policy of indefinite bilingualism that enshrined both English and Hindi as official languages of the Union government. State languages were to be left alone.

Given this history, the Union government’s imposition of Hindi is unwise and also pointless. On Tuesday, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu backed this policy up by arguing that “programmes such as Make in India and Digital India will become successful only when we use more Hindi in implementing them”. This is a curious argument given that all the big manufacturing and software industry states are non-Hindi speaking. The Hindi states lag behind in terms of economic development and industrialisation. What practical use, then, does Hindi imposition serve?

Far from Hind imposition helping, India’s policy of promoting linguistic states and giving them as much freedom has worked well. Linguistic states such as Karnataka and Maharashtra have managed to do well for themselves socially and economically. Destroying this careful arrangement by imposing Hindi would be a disaster for India.

The Big Scroll

  1. It is time for the government to stop spreading the lie that Hindi is India’s “national language”, argues Garga Chatterjee. He also points out that imposing Hindi on all is as bad an idea as insisting that India is a Hindu country.
  2. Stop outraging over Marathi, says Shoaib Daniyal. Hindi and English chauvinism is much worse in India.
  3. Did you know: Hindi is the mother tongue of only 26% of Indians.

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox.

Political Picks

  1. The Union government used “adverse” Intelligence Bureau reports to reject the names of six former judges for tribunals and commissions.
  2. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in order to work out a united Opposition candidate for the upcoming election of the president.
  3. Panama Papers: a court rejects calls to oust the Pakistani prime minister over claims of corruption.
  4. A day after pro-Kannada activists intensified their stand against Tamil actor Sathyaraj for his allegedly insulting remarks against Kannadigas by calling for a Bengaluru bandh, the director of the movie sought support from Kannada audiences for his film.

Punditry

  1. The freewheeling use of Article 142 is raising questions about judicial diktats inattentive to consequences, argues Kapil Sibal in the Indian Express.
  2. There is no case for water privatisation. In pushing for it, we are ignoring the key issue, which is better governance, write Himanshu Thakkar, Arun Lakhani and Mihir Shah in the Hindu.
  3. Indian society deludes itself that caste discrimination is a thing of the past, yet it suffuses the nation, top to bottom, argues Prayaag Akbar in Aeon.

Giggle

Don’t Miss

“The image of youth tied to jeep doesn’t define the Army’s approach to Kashmir”: Saikat Datta interviews former Indian Army commander DS Hooda on the Army’s approach to the human shield incident.

“Insurgency-related incidents have certainly come down from the peak levels of the early 2000s. The nature of the problem has morphed into a form of hybrid conflict where we are seeing the visible involvement of the local population in clashes with security forces. Social media is being used as a powerful tool to radicalise and inflame passions. This does require a slightly different approach where the police are at the forefront of tackling protestors. And this is what is largely happening. The Army does not really get involved in tackling mobs unless they are directly attacked. This is a clear operational principle.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.