2ndlook

RK Laxman’s 50 year old cartoon – relevant even today

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Environment, European History, Feminist Issues, Gold Reserves, History, language, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on December 17, 2008

Cartoon published in Times Of India on 14th December 1958 - Fifty years earlier

Cartoon published in Times Of India on 14th December 1958 - Fifty years earlier

Fifty years earlier, RK Laxman’s cartoon made us smile. Today, the status remains as bad as 50 years ago. Today, it is no longer a smiling matter – it is tragic.

80% of India’s population

The Indian education system excludes a vast majority of Indians from higher education as Indian higher education system is predominantly in English. This puts a premium on English – and discounts Indian languages in the educational sweepstakes. The disadvantaged students who have studied in Indian languages ensure that their children get the ‘advantage’ of English education.

The negative effect this on Indian self esteem is not even a point of discussion here.

The principle of exclusion (a colonial idea), is a dominant marker of the entire Indian education system – rather than inclusion. British (and before that, Islamic rulers’) colonial-imperial practices supported foreign languages on the backs of the Indian taxpayers’ contribution – and actively worked on destruction of local cultures.

Hinglish humour?

Hinglish humour?

For instance, in the erstwhile State Of Hyderabad (equal to about 10%-12% of modern India), ruled by the Nizam, a large non-British kingdom, 2000 year old local languages like Telugu and Marathi were considered uncouth and barbaric languages – compared to a 700 year old language like Urdu, which was supported by the State. Paeans in praise Urdu can be heard even today – much like the ’emergence of Hinglish’ is being celebrated in contemporary India.

Thus anyone without the knowledge of Urdu was excluded from the system of governance, administration and interaction with public services and utilities. So it is now in India, with English.

The Huna (Ephthalite) Empires

The Huna (Ephthalite) Empires

Desert Bloc Colonialism

The centres of Indian thought, Takshashila, Nalanda, etc. were destroyed by Desert Bloc invaders. First was the destruction of Takshashila in 499 AD – by the Huna (Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha), who came,

sacking monasteries and works of art, and ruining the fine Greco-Buddhic civilization which by then was five centuries old. Persian and Chinese texts agree in their descriptions of the tyranny and vandalism of this horde.” (from The Empire of the Steppes By Rene Grousset, Naomi Walford).

The White Huns, was a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibet to Tashkent, practicing polyandry. Takshashila lying at the cross roads of the Uttarapatha (West calls it The Silk Route) – from Tibet, China, Central Asia, Iran – and India. The destruction of Takshashila (Taxila) meant that students and scholars would need to travel for an extra 60 days to reach the other Indian Universities of the time.

Mohammed Bakhtiar Khilji destroyed the Universities and schools of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odantapura and Jagddala around 1200 AD. This marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought and structure. 600 years later, the British further damaged the Indic system of education, with State subsidies and patronage of Western education – the watershed being Bentinck’s proclamation in 1835.

Thus, the reduced (quality and quantity) output from the ‘Indian thought factory’ led to stasis and the decline that we see today – through the prism of last 800 years of violence and destruction of Indic thought. This problem gets further magnified with the existing and continued subsidy to English language /Western education by the Indian Government.

Many centuries ago, Indians (under Islamic rulers) thought that Persian was the most important language in the world. And then it became Urdu. Now there are hosannas to English. Persian and Urdu were languages that the ruling class foisted on the Indians. As is English.

Colonial India’s English push was understandable. But, after 60 years of Independence, state patronage by the Indian Republic of English language is unwarranted – and illegitimate.

Access Control and opportunity loss

This restricts 80% of India’s population from contribution and access to opportunity. Without looking at it from ethical or social equity viewpoints, but purely as an economic question means, we should look at the cost of this policy.

How does this hinder India. India loses every year about 200,000 highly educated people to the West. These 200,000 people have been educated at subsidized Indian Universities at a considerable cost to the poor Indian taxpayer. What return does the tax payer get from this? Negative returns.

The make up of these 200,000 people that India loses. 100,000 are students who leave India, mostly never to return. Another 100,00o are ‘captured’ by the Western organizations and systems. The other aspect of this loss is that this loss of people, directly and disproportionately, supports Western dominance of economic and academic systems – by India.

Something’s gotta give

What happens when English stops being an important language in the global sphere? What use will India’s investment in English be at that time? And this will happen sooner than we imagine – at a greater cost than we believe.

The combined GDP of the English speaking world is 14.1 trillion (2003 figures) – of which the US contributions is more than 71%. By a similar comparison, the next largest bloc of multi-nation, same-language speakers is the Spanish whose combined GDP is US$ 3.20 trillion. The French speaking bloc comes a poor third at US$2.20 trillion. The English speaking bloc, in spite of their temporary dominance, is still worried about the French attempts to keep its Francophone flock safe. It is but a matter of time that the US contribution will decrease – and hence, trade denominated importance of English will decrease.

Will we become a nation that loses control over its future? The danger of becoming a South American clone is all too real. After, Spanish decolonization, the South American countries persisted with Spanish practices – and Spanish language. We all know how South American countries tracked the descent of Spain into dictatorships and instability.

The decline of the (Greco-Roman) Byzantine Empire, was similar. After the split of the Eastern Roman Empire from the Western, over the next 200-400 years, Greek language became the official language of the Byzantine Empire. Eastern Europe followed the lead of the Byzantine Empire and used Greek extensively – at a cost to their own language. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Europe lagged Western Europe.

The cost of switching from English

Assuming that a 100,000 essential books need to translated into local languages, at a cost of say Rs.100,000 per book, it still amounts to Rs.1000 crores. Is that a large sum of money for modern India. Hardly.

What is the loss to India? How much does this reduce India’s growth rate by? Hard numbers to quantify – but definitely big numbers.

Why persist?

So, why does contemporary India persist with this policy.

Because all the high and mighty, finally want their children to ‘escape to the West’, with a good education from India – at the cost of India’s poor. This vested interest makes this policy go around.

And a lot of propaganda.

Post script

The UK, in its death throes, is using English as a last prop – to remain standing. The British PM Gordon Brown has decided that

“In total, two billion people worldwide will be learning English by 2020. But there are millions more on every continent who are still denied the chance to learn English.

“So today I want Britain to make a new gift to the world: a commitment to help anyone – however impoverished and however far away – to access the tools they need to learn English.”

Also, the British are co-opting the US in this exercise. Gordon Brown made a visit to the US to

propose that together Britain and America strive to make the international language that happens to be our own far more freely available across the world. I am today asking the British Council to develop a new initiative with private-sector and NGO partners in America, to offer anyone in any part of the world help to learn English.

But, the most interesting, was this post by a Quebecois, where he makes a case with a question ‘Is the English Language Bubble About to Burst?’ Worth a read, this post.

Advertisements

14 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Ritesh said, on December 22, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Kudos to the author. I have always enjoyed reading your comments and I am a keen reader. I almost always tend to agree with your views. However this time, I have little different views.

    I agree with the importance of using Indian language (not languages) as a means of communication, economics, administration and business within India. The reason I mention only language is because we as a nation are too diverse and diversity can be a boon as well as curse at the same time. Take an example of historical China. Shi Huangdi ruler of Qin dynasty unified China and imposed unified language. We in India do not need to go to such an extreme but a unified language would certainly help Indians to communicate on the same front, share ideas, share diverse wisdom and provide equal footing for all people in India. The division of north vs. south India is not only based on Aryan vs. Dravidian concept but also based on the written and spoken language as well. We need to find a common ground within India. Without that common ground English would always tend to be the mediatory language of communication between various Indians.

    Now regarding your comment about loosing 200,000 highly educated people to the West. The migration of those people certainly have a much positive impact on India than the author claims. Yes, India spends a lot on educating those people but those people also bring back lot of business back to India (think of IT, BPO, exports etc), bring new ideas and also as a major source of investment and remittance (Currently Indian expats are world largest remitters of money). Imagine even if we had 10% of the foreign currency reserves we have now in 1991, we wouldn’t have placed our gold as a collateral against a loan. One more point that you fail to acknowledge is that with Indian talent going abroad, we have large lobby of Indians in western countries which always rallies for the Indian cause. They also improve image of India in the west thereby indirectly improving our export market.

    So its not always doom and gloom. We have accomplished a lot in 60+ years and the rate of growth is phenomenal to say the least. We have to maintain the focus and do whatever is necessary for the good of the nation.

    Jai Hind.

  2. Anuraag Sanghi said, on December 23, 2008 at 8:42 am

    We in India do not need to go to such an extreme but a unified language would certainly help Indians to communicate on the same front, share ideas, share diverse wisdom and provide equal footing for all people in India.

    The concept that we need One God, One Book, One Holy Day, One Prophet (Messiah), One Set of Festivals, One Race, One People, One Country, One Authority leading to One Law, One Currency is a fallacious syllogism. Once you accept One, you will accept all others. This One Language logic is similar, and obviously false.

    People who need to live and work in Tamil Nadu, will learn Tamil – like Rajnikant (of Marathi extract, has learnt Tamil and become a super hero). Telugus, who need to live in New Delhi, will learn Hindi (PV Narasimha Rao, our Late Prime Minister knew 9 languages). If we can learn a foreign language, why do we believe, that we cannot learn an Indian language.

    The division of North vs. South India is not only based on Aryan vs. Dravidian concept but also based on the written and spoken language as well.

    This entire Aryan and Dravidian Theory has been disproved. The ‘North Indian Aryans’ and ‘South Indian Dravidians’ are both Indians – and the ‘South Indian Dravidians’ had expansive kingdoms upto North India – and ‘North Indian Aryan’ Kings upto Deccan. Chanakya who uses Aryadhwaja as a symbol of Aryan kings does not differentiate between North India and South India. The current definition of ‘North Indian Aryans’ as a ‘superior, invading’ race which ‘defeated’ the ‘inferior, South Indian Dravidian’ race were attempts by the West to steal the Indian cultural achievements. These Europeans started calling themselves ‘Aryans’ also.

    Shankaracharya, a South Indian declared the Chaar dhaam across language boundaries and political boundaries. The concept of India in history has been beyond political boundaries. In early 17th century, while India was divided into possibly 100 kingdoms, the British formed the East India Company – to trade with the nation of India, which was ruled by multiple rulers.

    We need to find a common ground within India.

    The common ground that Indians have is values – deeply shared and common values. Not artificial props like languages, dress, etc.

    Without that common ground English would always tend to be the mediatory language of communication between various Indians.

    The foisting of foreign languages is now a 1000 year old tradition in India – first it was Persian, then Urdu (the older version of Hinglish), then came English – and sometime later we will possibly opt for Hinglish.

    loosing 200,000 highly educated people to the West … (also has) a … positive impact on India … bring back lot of business back to India (think of IT, BPO, exports etc)

    You are assuming that without the BPO /IT business, India would have had no other opportunity – or capable of creating another opportunity. And by the way, the BPO business came to India due to Jack Welch – because he needed to cut costs at GE. His survival depended on this cost-cutting. Looking at GE success, the Rest of US industry came to India. The BPO business had nothing to do with the highly educated NRIs.

    bring new ideas and also

    Without the Western NRIs, India would not get any ideas – and are incapable of generating any on their own.

    a major source of investment and remittance (Currently Indian expats are world largest remitters of money)

    The largest remittances to India come from the less educated NRIs in the Gulf and the Patels of Gujarat, who run the motel industry in USA. The highly educated NRIs are too ‘smart’ to invest in India.

    we have large lobby of Indians in western countries which always rallies for the Indian cause. They also improve image of India in the west thereby indirectly improving our export market.

    The people who have created the modern Indian image is the Indian entrepreneur – from the pharma, the automotive, banking sectors – apart from the Software sector. Not the NRIs, I can assure you.

    We have accomplished a lot in 60+ years

    These achievements are indeed significant – and usually not the ones that the West and English media credit us for.

    and the rate of growth is phenomenal to say the least.

    The growth rate in the last 20 years has been good. But before that, you must remember what economist Raj Krishna called the ‘Hindu rate of growth.’

    Ritesh – Thanks for your feedback and compliments. The points you are making are the ‘generally’ accepted and touted ideas. This blog is however about taking a Secondlook.

  3. lvs said, on January 6, 2009 at 7:10 am

    I think Hindi is more widely spoken and understood today than it ever was, thanks to Hindi serials and movies.

    That said we have lost many of our indigenous languages. Every Indian should proudly learn at least 3 languages including English. Many today think that just knowing English and their mother tongue is enough. They dont try to learn the language of the region they may be living in. I think that is bad.

  4. Anuraag Sanghi said, on January 6, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Why should Indians learn only English – why not Chinese, Arabic, Bantu, Japanese, Spanish, French and Portuguese – all of whom India does substantial business with. The only two significant English speaking countries are now the US and Britain. Britain is in terminal decline – and the US has started down that road.

    On the other side, we have rising business and other relationships with Brazil (Portuguese), Russia (Russian) and China (Chinese) and South Africa (Bantu and Swahili).

  5. Unpretentious_Diva said, on January 9, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Subsidies and taxation is obviously a curse which will keep producing such dichotomies.
    better way is, let the education system be completely privatized, and then students, parents, can decide for themselves what medium of language they want to proceed with.
    market will provide them all sort of options.

    Also, it will increase benefits for poor to get better chances education through private system

  6. Anuraag Sanghi said, on January 9, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I agree.

    The Indian State today subsidizes English Language with billions of dollars – a policy that the British started in 1830. In the meantime, Indian language education systems have languished – and their survival is a credit to the Indian social strength.

    English should immediately be deprived of all State support – and Indian language education system should be helped back on its feet.

    Privatization of education is the Indian way – back in history and way in the future.

  7. galeo said, on January 12, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I think you have articulated this extremely well – your responses as well.

  8. Sonali Srijan said, on May 22, 2010 at 4:42 am

    I am a student of 14 yrs and required some symbolic cartoon pictures related to the RTE act.I found no desirable results , but your website seems to be helpful.It’s my earnest request to you to update your website with cartoons and articles of recent changes in India and world especially in matters of education for students’ reference.
    Thank you

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 22, 2010 at 6:59 am

      Sonali – Have you tried using Google Images Search? That may meet your requirements!

  9. admin said, on April 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

  10. admin said, on April 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm

  11. majorsri said, on April 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I do agree that English is not helping the cause of our languages. The reasons are

    A. Most of the urban populace more comfortable in english and converse in it most of the times. It looks like conversing in mother tongue has almost become an embarrassment.

    B. Even during interviews, more than communication the language of english is given more importance. Lot many good guys have not been placed due to that. (atleast in my case)

    But look at the other side, english is so all pervasive that our languages have absorbed lot of words from that language. Apart from Hindi english has become a common denominator for communication among the masses. We cannot have Hindi thrust upon all the states. That job is already being done by Bollywood for the Govt. But english would be accepted by most of the states. I feel english along with one local language and Sanskrit to be made compulsory in all courses be it an MBA, MBBS etc.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on April 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      But look at the other side, english is so all pervasive that our languages have absorbed lot of words from that language. Apart from Hindi english has become a common denominator for communication among the masses.

      This is an important point.

      Remember how Persian and Urdu collapsed in a matter of a few decades – without State support from Islamic rulers. Indian Islamic rulers also needed Persian and Urdu because many Desert Bloc concepts of governance have no words in Sanskrit.

      For instance, what is the Sanskrit word for law.

      Law, written, sanctioned by a kings, imposed by courts and judges.

      What has happened is that vidhi, vidhan, vidhayak have been shoe-horned to fit this definition.

      So, what happens when English becomes irrelevant.

      Today English is important because the world’s largest economy uses it. Tomorrow when USA is not the largest or the dominant economy, the role of English will be like today’s Spanish and French. Widely spoken – but not dominant.

      What will happen to Indian education then?

      We cannot have Hindi thrust upon all the states. That job is already being done by Bollywood for the Govt.

      At least that has not been proposed in any of my posts. All that I am proposing is that

      1. Subsidy to English be withdrawn.

      2. Increase the number of international languages that Indians will learn and use – like French, Spanish, Chinese, Bantu, Swahili, Arabic, German and Russian.

      3. Support all Indian languages till they start can start walking again.

      India has done very well in the past with multiple languages – and I am sure that people will make some choices.

      I feel english along with one local language and Sanskrit to be made compulsory in all courses be it an MBA, MBBS etc.

      This is already being done. This is the three language formula which has ended only helping English.

      • valsa jose said, on August 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        Who are Poor Indians? 90% of the so called Poor dont want to work.They wanted to live at the cost of others hard work.Let the people work for their living .teach them not to be parasites


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: