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Linguistic Diversity and Disparate Regional Growth

Disparate regional growth in India has seen economically faster growing "minority" cultural groups demanding a change in the horizontal devolution formula instituted in the federal system. This has created the possibility of friction between majority and minority cultural groups in the union of states. A new multicultural approach towards federalism is therefore necessitated which takes cognisance of this fact.

COMMENTARYaugust 16, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly8Linguistic Diversity and Disparate Regional Growth Papia Sengupta, T Ravi kumarDisparate regional growth in India has seen economically faster growing “minority” cultural groups demanding a change in the horizontal devolution formula instituted in the federal system. This has created the possibility of friction between majority and minority cultural groups in the union of states. A new multicultural approach towards federalism is therefore necessitated which takes cognisance of this fact.Amajor issue in liberal democratic societies which are multicultural in their composition is the preserva-tion of diverse cultures comprising, among others, languages, religions and traditions. Conflicts may arise within nations and so-cieties due to minority groups demanding not only retention of their primordial iden-tities but also acceptance into the larger society. Language is a powerful instrument of cultural identity since it is the window through which individuals interface with the world and constitutes a critical vehicle for the sense of belonging. Discords emerge when people feel that they are being excluded from certain processes or denied equal opportunities – including access to an equitable share of the public resources and services – due to their lack of knowledge of the majority or dominant language(s). Thus, granting linguistic minorities language rights or special privi-leges to offset their apparent disadvantages in attaining accommodation within the national economic and political main-stream is considered essential in a liberal democratic multicultural state.1 India is linguistically extremely diverse with 22 officially recognised national languages, viz, those included in the VIIIth Schedule of the Constitution, and more than 100 non-scheduled languages.2 Un-derlying the major reorganisation of the states of India in 1956 (and in subsequent years) was the rationale that linguistic mi-norities be offered adequate opportunities for political and economic growthto ensure that there is no feeling of discrimination or neglect. Evolution of Linguistic PrincipleThe linguistic principle figured as early as 1903 in the discussions centred around the division of Bengal though the province was partitioned on religious grounds. Later, in 1918, the Montague-Chelmsford Report examining the viability of formation of sub-provinces on a linguistic and racial basis, suggested that governance would be simplified in homogeneous units, and that conducting of legislation in vernacular would also help in drawing men not acquainted with English into the public arena [GOI 1955: 44-45]. The Indian National Congress (INC), in opposing the partition of Bengal on reli-gious grounds, lent indirect backing to the linguistic principle in 1905. This support continued with the formation of a sepa-rate Congress organisational province of Bihar in 1908, Sindh and Andhra in 1917, and also the acceptance of the linguistic reorganisation of provinces as an explicit political objective in the Nagpur session of1920. The Nehru Committee of the All Parties Conference of 1928 also provided support to the linguistic principle.3TheINC further reaffirmed its adherence to the linguistic principle when it recom-mended the formation of Andhra Pradesh at the Calcutta session of 1937 and, in the next year, gave assurances to deputations from Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala, that linguistic reorganisation will be undertaken as soon as the Congress has the authority to do so. Finally, just before independence, theINC in its elec-tion manifesto of 1945-46 declared that provinces would be constituted on a linguistic and cultural basis as far as possible [GOI 1955: 44-45]. Reorganisation of States in 1956The Constitution of India, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, made India a sovereign, democratic republic and a union of states (replacing provinces) and territories. There were three types of states in post-independence India – nine Part A states which were former governors’ provinces of British India, eight PartB states which were essentially former princely states or groups of princely states and 10 Part C states which included both the former chief commissioners’ provinces and princely states. Almost every state in India was multilingual at this time.The States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) was constituted by the government of India in December 1953 under the Papia Sengupta ( is at the Department of Political Science, Kirorimal College, University of Delhi.T Ravi Kumar ( is at the Department of Economics, Kirorimal College, University of Delhi.
COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW august 16, 20089States Reorganisation Act to examine “objectively” and “dispassionately” the issue of reorganisation of the states of the Indian Union so that “the welfare of the people of each constituent unit as well as the nation as a whole is promoted” [GOI 1955: 1]. In making a case for reorganising thestateson the linguistic principle, the SRC asserted that: (a) Indian states, if linguisti-cally constituted, will be able to achieve internal cohesiveness because language is a vehicle for communion of thoughts, (b) in a democracy, the political and admini-strative work of a state must be conducted in the regional language, (c) under a demo-cratic government it is imperative that legislatures must work in one language to ensure real consciousness of identity of interests between government and the people, (d) educational activity can be stimulated by giving regional languages their due place, and (e) the demand for linguistic states does not merely represent cultural revivalism but seeks to secure dif-ferent linguistic groups political and eco-nomic justice [GOI 1955: 35].The States’ Reorganisation Act of 1956 restructured the state boundaries and created or dissolved states and Union Territories. It also eliminated the distinc-tion between Part A, B and C states. There emerged 14 states and seven union territories after the implementation of this Act.4 Majority and Minority The Constitution of India does not provide a clear criterion for defining minority lan-guages. The Supreme Court of India, in 1958, presented a parameter for defining a minority language as “the language of the minority community” and minority as a “community which constitutes less than 50 per cent of the total population of the state” [Pandharipande 2002: 3]. However, for the nation as a whole, no linguistic group can claim majority status as Hindi, the official language of the Union of India, is the language of only about two-fifths of the total population of India.5 In 2002, the Supreme Court decided that the operative unit in respect of determining who be-longs to a minority within the meaning of Article 30 will be the state and not the whole of India.6 Contributing further to the lack of definitional clarity between what constitutes majority and minority language is the existence of more than 100 non-scheduled languages.Growing Regional DisparitiesAs may be seen from the table, the eco-nomic performance of regions in India has been extremely diverse over the past two and a half decades resulting in higher levels of regional disparities. The coefficient of variation (COV) of per capita regional incomes, measured as per capita net state domestic product (PCNSDP) at constant prices, increased from 29.4 in 1981-82 to 35.3 in 2005-06. The ratio between the maximum and minimum incomes across regions increased from 3.0 to 4.7 over the same reference period.In 2005-06, seven of the nine states with PCNSDP higher than the national average, viz, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, are non-Hindi states (Table, col 3).7 Similarly, of the nine states whose economies grew at a rate higher than the national average over the period 1980-81 to 2006-07, five states – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu – are non-Hindi states. Two of the remaining four states, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, were creat-ed only in the year 2000 and in terms of economic performance their parent states – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – are placed near the bottom, with ranks of 16 and 18 respectively (see the Table, col 4). The growing regional disparities within India have generated stress on federal re-lations between the union and the states. For example, the recommendations of the recent finance commissions have been accompanied by demands from the richer and faster growing states, which are primarily linguistic “minority” states, to dilute the progressivity of the horizontal devolution formula since a higher degree of progressiveness redistributes resources from the centre away from them and to-wards the poorer states which are largely “majority” language states [Kumar 2005]. Recently, the chief minister of Gujarat – a linguistic “minority” state which has deve-loped the fastest over the past 25 years – is reported to have remarked that the central government should “…stop collecting taxes from Gujarat and also stop aid to the state” as “….Gujarat gives Rs 40,000 crore as taxes to the centre and receives only 2.5 per cent of it in return”.8The major theme in multicultural stud-ies relates to the need for policies not only to preserve the minority cultures but also to ensure their effective integration into the national mainstream. It is implicitly presumed that conflicts may arise within society primarily due to the minority groups feeling excluded in terms of bene-fiting less than the majority group from the overall national development process. However, the disparate economic per-formance of the states of India poses a set of issues that suggest a need for multicul-turalism taking greater cognisance of the possibility of friction between the majority and minority cultural groups occurring due to the latter progressing faster than the former. A broader analytical structure Table: Regional Disparities in IndiaState Per Capita Net State Domestic SARG1 Product (PCNSDP) (Rs) (%) 1981-822005-062 1981-82to 2006-073 1 2 3 4Andhra Pradesh 1,504 (10) 21,347 (8) 4.49 (4)Assam 1,374 (12) 14,853 (15) 1.83 (19)Bihar4 933 (17) 6,993 (20) 2.17 (16)Chhattisgarh -15,538 (12) 3.19 (13)Gujarat 2,011 (4) 25,152 (6) 5.03 (1)Haryana 2,419 (3) 33,002 (1) 4.10 (7)Himachal Pradesh 1,718 (7) 27,210 (4) 3.84 (10)Jammu and Kashmir 1,777 (5) 14,850 (16) 1.10 (20)Jharkhand -15,079 (13) 4.80 (2)Karnataka 1,563 (8) 20,972 (9) 4.38 (5)Kerala 1,487 (11) 25,719 (5) 3.69 (11)Madhya Pradesh4 1,369 (13) 12,312 (18) 2.10 (17)Maharashtra 2,452 (2) 28,063 (3) 4.10 (8)Orissa 1,265 (15) 14,131 (17) 2.99 (14)Punjab 2,818 (1) 28,960 (2) 2.85 (15)Rajasthan 1,261 (16) 14,944 (14) 3.89 (9)Tamil Nadu 1,555 (9) 24,347 (7) 4.52 (3)Uttar Pradesh4 1,299 (14) 10,681 (19) 1.99 (18)Uttarakhand -20,391 (10) 4.22 (6)West Bengal 1,727 (6) 19,830 (11) 3.66 (12)COV 29.4 35.3 -Max/Min ratio 3.0 4.7 -All India (PCNNP) 1,671 20,912 3.87(1) Simple average rates of growth are derived from the different CSO series of PCNSDP at constant prices with 1980-81, 1993-94 and 1999-2000 as the base years.(2) Figures are triennial averages except for Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra which are biennial averages. The figure for Jammu and Kashmir relates to 2004-05. (3) Period up to 2005-06 for Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra and up to 2004-05 for Jammu and Kashmir.(4) Figures for 1981-82 are for undivided states.(5) Figures in parenthesis refer to the rank of the states.Source: Central Statistical Organisation, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
COMMENTARYaugust 16, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly10is required for the identification of not only the conditions under which these can occur but also the policies that need to be pursued under these circumstances to en-sure a greater acceptance of diversity within multicultural societies.Notes1 For an overview of minority rights within a multi-cultural perspective see Kymlicka (1995).2 In 1956, there were 14 languages in the VIIIth Schedule. Eight more were added in subsequent years.3 The Nehru Report of 1928 was a memorandum outlining a proposed new dominion status for India. The parties included the INC, the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Central Sikh League. 4 With subsequent reorganisations there are now 28 states and seven Union Territories.5 Statement IV, Census of India 2001. However, the next largest linguistic group (Bangla) constituted less than one-tenth (8.11 per cent) of the popula-tion of India.6 In the matter ofTMA Pai Foundation and Others vs State of Karnataka and Others – Writ Petition (Civil) No 317, 1995 (8 scc 481: AIR 2004 sc 335).7 These seven states do not have Hindi even as an additional official language.8 TheHindustan Times, June 16, 2008. Another ex-ample of potential conflict between an economi-cally better performing “minority” group and the “majority” group is the reported agitation by an offshoot of the Shiv Sena against Hindi migrants into Mumbai – the capital city of the linguistic “minority” state of Maharashtra, which was ranked thirdin 2005-06 in terms of per capita incomes.ReferencesGovernment of India (1955):Report of the State Reor-ganisation Commission, New Delhi.Kumar, T Ravi (2005): ‘Tax Devolution and Regional Disparities’,Economic & Political Weekly, May 14, Vol XL, No 20, pp 2020-22.Kymlicka, Will (1995):Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford, United Kingdom, Clarendon.Pandharipande, Rajeshwari V (2002): ‘Minority Mat-ters: Issues in Minority Language in India’, Inter-national Journal on Multicultural Societies, Vol 4, No 2, pp 1-30 (available at Caste, Higher Education and Senthil’s ‘Suicide’Senthilkumar Solidarity CommitteeThe death of Senthilkumar, a dalit research scholar, at the University of Hyderabad earlier this year is one more example of how, reservations notwithstanding, caste discrimination continues to afflict India’s institutions of higher learning.The suicide earlier this year of Senthilkumar, a dalit PhD student at the University of Hyderabad, has once again exposed the murky realities of caste discrimination in our universities. The debate on reservations in higher education has centred around the ques-tion of who “deserves” reservations, while the brahminical ordering of institutions of higher education has received only sporadic attention.1 Senthil’s suicide has re-affirmed the fact that the dominant academic culture works relentlessly to subvert the logic of reservations. The body of Senthilkumar was dis-covered in his room at the New Research Scholars Hostel on February 24, 2008. Since then, the attitude of the university has been one of denial and cover-up. The initial claims were that Senthil had died of “cardiac arrest”. Even after newspaper reports suggested a case of suicide,2 the university did not take any action, and continued to feign ignorance. While the post-mortem report ascertaining the cause of death as “poisoning” is dated February28, it was not made public until April. A dalit student agitation demanded an enquiry as well as compensation for the family – the minimum an academic insti-tution is expected to do in the circum-stances. To this the registrar’s response was that “there was no such provision in the University guidelines”. In an open letter to the vice chancellor, the SC/ST Joint Action Committee (JAC: comprising students, faculty and staff as-sociation members) on campus demanded that the rules regarding the fellowships for students be modified, in order to “pro-vide a much broader philosophical premise for the grant of scholarship” and that the procedure for allotting guides to PhD students be made transparent. They also demanded a judicial enquiry; there was no response to this. Instead, an internal fact-finding committee was appointed in mid-March, only afterinter-vention from D Ravikumar, the well known dalit intellectual and a member of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly. The committee comprised only faculty mem-bers of the university; the JAC refused to depose before it. The report submitted by this committee was again withheld until an application under the RTI Act (from the JAC) forced the university to make it available, finally, on April 28. In what follows, we draw from this re-port, newspaper coverage and personal discussions to demonstrate the reason for all these evasions and denial – Senthil was yet another victim of the entrenched realities of caste discrimination that per-vade academic spaces and practices in the university. SenthilSenthilkumar was the first to enter higher education not only from his family, but the entire Panniandi community. His parents The Senthilkumar Solidarity Committee is a group of intellectuals and activists based in Hyderabad.

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