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Sanskrit Speakers



Sanskrit Speakers

he useful article ‘Decline of Sanskrit’ by Bhupendra Yadav in EPW, December 31, 2005, might have benefited by the inclusion of the following additional points: (1) Yes, B R Ambedkar, the famous dalit leader and chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution, was in favour of adopting Sanskrit as the national language of India (see Sumathi Ramaswamy, ‘Sanskrit for the Nation’, Modern Asian Studies, 33, 2, 1999, p 353). The fact that a dalit leader, who earlier had passages from the Manusmriti (which is in Sanskrit) burnt in protest espoused Sanskrit should give us reason to pause, if only to reflect on the grounds on which he might have done so. (2) If memory serves, the number of people who cited Sanskrit as their mother tongue in the 1951 Census was around 3,000. If the number of such people has risen to 49,733 in the 1991 Census then, on the face of it, this statistic seems to count against the title of the paper, which announces the decline of Sanskrit. I say “on the face of it” because the 2001 Census may confirm the statement. It could also be argued that the respondents who declared Sanskrit as their mother tongue were thereby articulating an aspiration rather than a fact. If, however, the decline is meant to indicate or imply a decline in the number of “speakers” as recorded in the decennial census, then surely caution is in order.


Montreal, Canada

A Welcome Ban

nant Phadke et al (December 3, 2005) are worried about the government of India (GoI) imposing a ban on the sale of non-iodised salt in the country, a decision which is not based on “scientific evidence” and not possible to enforce. In the columns of the EPW dated February 3, 1996, February 24, 1996 and April 13, 1996, heated discussion took place between this author and S K Sharma on the whole issue of universalising iodised salt. I welcome the recent decision of the GoI to re-introduce the ban on the sale of non-iodised salt. The NDA government had imposed the ban on the sale of iodised salt owing mainly to the pressure of the salt lobby in Gujarat, which is the leading producer of common salt in the country. Many of the salt producers do not want to install salt iodisation plants at the salt heads. Both Gujarat and Rajasthan lead in the production of common edible salt and the salt lobby is strong in these states. The whole issue of universalising salt iodisation is beset more with fears of the unknown rather than with the urgency of tackling the public health menace of iodine deficiency diseases like goitre, which are still more visible. The invisible signs like low intelligence and cognitive impairment of children are not seen at all.

Iron, iodine and vitamins have to be consumed by all citizens. In India the hilly regions like Himachal, J and K and parts of Assam face acute iodine deficiency disorders like goitre for which there is no cure except to eat iodised salt in a sustained manner. Today many public health activists have started a satyagraha against iodised salt, using Mahatma Gandhi’s salt satyagraha strategy, which is, to say the least, ridiculous. These activists argue that in the coastal belts and in south India there is no iodine deficiency, so why impose on these regions unwanted iodised salt? Tata Salt is sold only in iodised form. How is it that people have not suffered by consuming Tata’s iodised salt?

According to WHO, normal people exposed to excess iodine, through adaptive mechanisms, remain euthyroid and free of goitre. In Japan where dietary iodine intake is high, it has been shown that normal people who are not iodine deficient can maintain normal thyroid function status, even at several milligrams of dietary iodine

(Continued on p 168)




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(Continued from p 82)

intake. The incidence of non-toxic diffuse goitre and toxic nodular goitre is markedly decreased by high dietary iodine intake. The incidence of Grave’s disease and Hashimoto disease does not appear to be affected by high intake of dietary iodine. Current estimates of daily iodine intakes in Canada and US are substantially above physiological need – in the range of 460 mg/day among 9-16 year old children to greater than 1 mg among as many as 10-20 per cent of adults according to the WHO.

We cannot put iodine in drinking water or in foods or vegetables; all such methods have been tried in several countries and have failed. Salt iodisation at the salt heads is the only cost effective method and hence India has to accept this universalisation of salt iodisation as a public health measure. Except industrial salt, all edible salt has to be iodised for both humans and animals. Iodisation plants are not expensive and the salt commissioner should force the salt producers to install them. Loans can be given at concessional rates to install these plants and recover the cost through the sale of iodised salt.

It is high time that we tackle public health problems like iodine, vitamin and iron deficiencies by adopting fortification technologies so that our young growing population does not suffer from these micronutrient deficiencies.




y article ‘Land-Use Strategies for Tribals: A Socio-economic Analysis’, which appeared in EPW, December 31, 2005 was based on the study supported by South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE). Omission of acknowledgement on my part is regretted.



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