Bhubaneswar, 12/6 ( Odisha Samachar Bureau ) – Former Minister and senior Congress leader Shri Niranjan Patnaik has said that it is ironical that a Chief Minister, and the only one in Indian history, who can’t speak or write the state’s official language is talking of Odia Swabhiman. Swabhiman to any Odia means economic development as well as protecting the state’s language and culture. He has asked Shri Naveen Patnaik to either learn Odia or quit the state. To Naveen’s “Delhi Chalo”, Niranjan has asked Naveen to “ Odisha Chodo”.
Shri Patnaik shot off a letter to Union Law Minister Shri Kapil Sibal asking for an amendment to “Article 173 to make it mandatory for all members of the state assembly to be able to read, write and speak the language of the state.” The copy of the letter is being sent to Congress President Smt Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice President Shri Rahul Gandhi, Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, important political leaders of India, as well as Presidents of all political parties in Odisha for generating a debate on this issue.
Mr Patnaik also said that it is astoundingly ironical that a person can’t become a sarpanch in Odisha without knowing Odia, but he can be an MLA, Minister or even Chief Minister!
Shri Niranjan Patnaik has said that not merely Odisha, but all the backward states are demanding Special category status and Congress has supported the demand. As the matter is under consideration by an expert committee headed by Shri Raghuram Rajan, Chief Minister’s swabhiman rally at Delhi is an unnecessary gimmick.
Shri Patnaik has stated that no one should be eligible to be a Member of the State Legislature without knowing the official language of the state. In fact, he has said that this loophole in the constitution needs to be plugged by a suitable amendment to Article 173 of the Constitution of India.
The language issue has been critical to the formation of the union states. Odisha was the first state to be formed on the linguistic basis. The language issue was debated in the Constituent Assembly on September 14, 1949 and it was agreed that the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script (Article 343) and further that a State Legislature may, as per law, adopt one or more languages in the state as the language or languages to be used for all or any official purposes of that state (Article 345), said Shri Patnaik said in his letter.
Indeed, the Odisha Assembly decided more than a quarter of a century back that Odia will be the official language of the state, said the letter.
“With a great degree of reluctance it was agreed by the members of the Constituent Assembly to let English be used for official purposes for a period of 15 years. At the same time, regional languages were given a constitutional status and kept in a separate schedule. But, it is a travesty of the democratic Constitution if members elected to the legislature have no sensitivity for cultural nationalism and significance of regional language and flout the norms laid down in Article 345 of the Constitution,” the letter further added.
The letter mentions that Odia is the official language of Odisha under Article 345 of the Constitution and yet, “the present Head of the Council of Ministers, i.e., the Chief Minister does not read, write, speak or understand Odia, particularly when Odisha happens to be the first state to be formed on linguistic basis. It is absolutely in no way parochial to expect that the Chief Ministers of Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, Gujarat or any of the other states know the language of their state.”
“You are the Law Minister of the country as well as a renowned legal luminary. You would agree that the loophole permitting members of legislature to be ignorant of the language of their state, needs to be plugged forthwith. Accordingly, there is a need to revert to Article 173 of the Constitution and add the following clause: ‘Can speak, read, write and understand the official language of the State’,” averred Shri Patnaik.
The idea of a linguistic organization of State first originated in Odisha through a language movement spearheaded by the Utkal Sammilani while we were still a British colony and it is only appropriate that the demand for an amendment to Article 173 of the Constitution to make it mandatory for a public servant to know the language of the state originates from our State.
“I feel that expecting all the members of the state assembly to know the official language of the state is justifiable, and therefore, you may consider initiating a broader debate on a suitable amendment to prevent persons not knowing the official language of the state from getting elected. I am sure such an amendment will receive support from most political parties and a consensus for the required constitutional amendment will be evolved for its enactment,” he further stated in the letter.