THERE’S A RECKLESS, BULL-IN-A-CHINA-SHOP defining characteristic of the top leadership of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in power at the Centre since 2014. On Hindi Diwas (September 14), heir-apparent Union home minister Amit Shah resurrected the dormant issue of the country’s national language by issuing an appeal to all state governments to communicate with the Centre in Hindi, which in his opinion is the national language. This has aroused the wrath of several state governments in southern India, especially Tamil Nadu, opposed to the imposition of “Hindi imperialism” on uniquely multilingual India.
The latest unguided missile fired by the BJP leadership hell-bent on promoting Hindi — the lingua franca of India’s most backward BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh states) — is to provide medical education, i.e, the entire MBBS programme in Hindi with Madhya Pradesh launching first year MBBS textbooks written in Hindi on October 16. Unsurprisingly, the Federation of All India Medical Associations has opposed this peremptory initiative, declaring the textbooks sub-standard.
Admittedly, there is a case for teaching medicine and every other subject in Hindi and vernacular languages. However in a uniquely multilingual nation with 121 languages and 270 mother tongues (Berlitz 2021) in which 300 million adults are illiterate in their own native tongues, such monumental initiatives need adequate and meticulous preparation. First, bilingual medical graduates highly proficient in English and Hindi need to be identified, incentivised and commissioned to write the necessary textbooks, a task utterly beyond Madhya Pradesh or any other BIMARU government, whose universities routinely certify graduates who can’t write a coherent paragraph in any language.
Regrettably, there is a distressing tendency within the BJP leadership to launch initiatives of great pith and moment without adequate preparation and deliberation. Think demonetisation (2016) and the Covid national pandemic lockdown with four hours’ notice to the public. Now, the latest revolution in medical education.