Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday said that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was correct in urging banks to ensure that their staff members who deal with customers speak the local language.
Chidambaram, who had served as the finance minister during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government, urged Sitharaman to also give the same advice to other customer-oriented businesses such as insurance firms, airlines and mobile telephone companies.
“It is annoying to find that customer-oriented staff are mostly unilingual [Hindi],” tweeted the Congress leader. “We must constantly remind ourselves that India speaks many languages and there are two official languages [Hindi and English].”
Sitharaman made the remarks on Friday while addressing the 75th Annual General Meeting of the Indian Banks’ Association in Mumbai.
The finance minister urged banks to “show inclusivity” in the way they speak to customers. “When you have staff who do not talk the regional language...you have a problem,” she said.
Sitharaman said that if banks have staff members who cannot communicate in the local language, they should be kept away from posts that require interacting with customers, The Times of India reported.
“We cannot have staff who do not speak the local language and who demand from citizens that they speak in a particular language and say that unless they do it, they are not Indians,” the finance minister said.
Sitharaman said that she is from South India, but she made efforts to learn Hindi.
“As long as my karmabhoomi [place of work] is here, I have to learn the language,” she added. “I can’t understand how IBA can entertain officers who get posted in an area and cannot speak the area’s language.”