The language problem is not solved by deciding the medium of instruction in educational institutions. The problem of communication between state governments still remains. At present, each state government is in the process of adopting the regional language as the medium for administrative purposes. If this becomes so, then the need for a suitable language for inter-state communication creeps up. Moreover, the central government shall have to adopt a particular language for its own official work.
There is still the problem of communication between people of different regions and problem of communication between states and center and people all over the country. What language, for instance, shall the central government use for communication with a person living in West Bengal?
What language shall the Tamil Nadu government use for communication with a business firm established in Kanpur. What language shall be used as a medium in inter-state trade and commerce? What language shall a tourist from West Bengal use while he is on tour to Kerala?
What language shall a student from Karnataka use for local communication in Kolkata? An appropriate language policy shall have to give suitable answers to each of these problems.
We have elaborated on the issues that arise in framing a Language Policy. At present, most of these problems do not arise since English is used as the medium for inter-regional and inter-governmental communication and as medium of instruction in higher education. But problems shall arise if we try to remove English from its pre-eminent position.
The most important disqualification of English is that it is a foreign language. On the other hand the merits of having English as the link language are many. It is already playing the role of a national link language. Secondly, it is neutral between different regions in the country as no state shall be in an advantageous position when English is used as the link language. Thirdly, English is a highly developed language and very rich in science, social science, and general literature. Fourthly, the bulk of academic research done in India has been published in English and availability of text books is also the maximum in English language.
The merit of having Hindi as the national link language is that it is an Indian language and also the most popular Indian language. But it has been argued to the disadvantage of Hindi that the scientific and general literature available in this language is quite inferior in comparison to what is available in English.
By far, the most important disqualification of Hindi in becoming the national link language is that it is not neutral as between regions. If Hindi becomes the official link language it can be to the disadvantage of non-Hindi speaking states. If Hindi is widely used in central government, the employees hailing from the Hindi-speaking regions shall always enjoy an advantage over the rest of India – both at the time of recruitment and after they enter the job.
This shall always remain a cause of tension and inter-regional rivalry in India as long as Hindi continues to play the role of national link language. Thus the greatest danger in having Hindi as the national link language is that it will always keep ablaze the flames of inter-state rivalry and disintegrating tendencies.
It has sometimes been argued that the national link language should be a language of the masses. It was this stand which persuaded many nationalists to decide in favour of Hindi. But the argument that the national link language should be a common man’s language stands on flimsy grounds. The requirement for a nationally accepted link language is more for the intellectuals and scholars than for the masses. For intellectuals and scholars in a nation there should be a common language to exchange their ideas.
The important research work done all over the country should be accessible in one selected language. Moreover, when intellectuals, scholars, academicians, writers, politicians, bureaucrats and journalists meet each other anywhere in the country there should be common language they could all understand. This is the requirement of learned people and no language is better suited for the purpose than English.
The requirement for the common man is different. For the common man it is always essential and unavoidable to learn the local language wherever he settles down. When a labourer from Tamil Nadu settles down in Bengal he has to learn Bengali.
If he settles down in Gujarat he has to learn Gujarati. He cannot achieve his task with English. The labour class cannot function with a link language. Their requirement will always be to learn the local language. This phenomenon is very much in operation today when English plays the role of link language. English is today the link language of only the educated class.
A semi-literate person from Tamil Nadu when he settles down in Delhi communicates more in Hindi than in English. Similarly if he settles down in Kerala he will use more of Malayalam and so also if he settles down in Karnataka, Kannada will be a better companion to him than English. On the other hand, a university professor from Delhi wherever he chooses to go in India will always find that English is his best friend.
Thus the requirement of a link language is different for the common man and for the educated person. A universally accepted link language is basically the requirement of the educated class. For the common man the requirement is always to learn the local language whatever it may be.