Tamil Tribune

Karunanidhi - Protector of Tamil Language (Mozhi Kaavalar Mu. Karunanidhi)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2010 (ID. 2010-11-01)
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1. The Announcement

2. The Ordinance

3. More to Do

1. Karunanidhi's Announcement

On June 27, 2010, at the closing ceremony of the First World Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore (Kovai), Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi made a major announcement. The significance of this significant announcement might have been lost on most of the conference visitors and the general public, amongst the gala and glitter of the conference. In the opinion of this writer, this announcement and its implementation would have more long term implications to the future of Tamil language than anything else that happened at the conference or, for that matter, anything else Karunanidhi had done during his tenures as chief minister of Tamilnadu State. But for this announcement and its implementation, Tamil might have become a "useless language", ignored and neglected by people even in Tamil Nadu.

What is this major announcement that Chief Minister Karunanidhi made at the closing ceremony of the First World Classical Tamil Conference? He announced that the state government would bring forth a law giving preference to Tamil-medium students in state government jobs. If anyone thought that the chief minister had made the announcement in the exuberance of the festivities of the conference and there would be no follow up action, that was not to be. In less than two weeks after the announcement, on July 9, 2010, the first appointment under the new scheme was made.

2. Karunanidhi Ordinance and its Significance

On the second week of September 2010, Tamil Nadu State Government promulgated an ordinance reserving 20% of all state government jobs to those who studied in Tamil medium. This reservation applies to direct state government jobs as well as to jobs at local authorities, corporations and companies owned or controlled by the state government. Persons who have studied in Tamil medium could also compete with others for vacancies over and above the 20% reservation.

In the opinion of this writer, this "Karunanidhi ordinance" provides at least a partial measure of protection against Tamil becoming a useless language within Tamilnadu itself. What was the status of Tamil in Tamil Nadu before the ordinance? More and more parents were enrolling their children in English-medium classes. More and more parents were asking their children to study Hindi and get certificates from organizations like Hindi Prachar Sabha. Studying Tamil was neglected and, if one could get through schools without studying Tamil, many opted for it. Why were more and more parents concentrating on English, and even Hindi, and neglecting Tamil? Parents were thinking of the future of their children. That is what parents do; they do everything possible for their children to have good jobs and a better future. English and Hindi gave those opportunities and Tamil did not.

English is widely used within Tamil Nadu at businesses, universities and state government offices with only a limited use of Tamil. Proficiency in Tamil is seldom a requirement for working in these places, especially for white-collar jobs. As for Indian government offices within Tamil Nadu, all work is done in English and Hindi. No need for Tamil at all. In short, the situation in Tamil Nadu was that a formal knowledge of Tamil is not a necessity in Tamil Nadu. So more and more parents sent their children to English medium schools, asked them to learn Hindi and simply ignored their mother tongue Tamil. It has nothing to do with disrespect for Tamil or love for English and Hindi. It has all to do with jobs, jobs, jobs.

Only way to attract students to Tamil medium education in schools or colleges is to offer them job opportunities. Chief Minister Karunanidhi tackled the problem right at the root. He had created job opportunities for Tamil medium students through the 20% reservation order. By this single act, the chief minister had assured that there would be a steady stream of Tamil medium students in schools and colleges.

Tamil lovers were worried in recent years that as more and more students opt for English medium education and abandon Tamil medium education, more and more work would be done in both private and government sector offices in English, and Tamil would become an useless language in Tamil Nadu itself. Such a situation exists in countries like South Africa and Mauritius where sizable Tamil Nadu origin people live. Because they are a small minority, naturally, Tamil has very little use in government and businesses. So Tamil is essentially a forgotten language to a great extent. The same situation of Tamil becoming a forgotten language, a useless language, was developing in Tamil Nadu itself. Chief Minister Karunanidhi's timely and effective action had turned the tide. We thank Chief Minister Karunanidhi and offer him the title  "Protector of Tamil Language" (Mozhi Kaavalar).

3. More to Do

There is more to do in order to consolidate the protection that the new "Karunanidhi ordinance" offers. We list them below.

1. Make high school level or college level knowledge of Tamil a requirement for all Tamil Nadu government jobs depending on whether the job requires a high school certificate or a college degree. This does not mean one has to study in Tamil medium; it means that one needs to study Tamil as a subject in school or college or pass a comparable Tamil language examination.

2. Although Tamil was declared the official language of Tamil Nadu decades ago, it is not implemented in many offices. Set a timetable for implementing fully. In addition, English may still be used for communication with multi-national companies in Tamil Nadu. Language shall not become a deterrent to attract foreign investments in Tamilnadu.

3. Eliminate the requirement of Hindi knowledge for Indian government jobs within Tamil Nadu and make knowledge of Tamil a requirement. All communications in Indian government offices within Tamil Nadu shall be in Tamil.

In conclusion, we again thank Chief Minister Karunanidhi for what he had done and offer him the title  "Protector of Tamil Language" (Mozhi Kaavalar)!,

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Thanjai Nalangkilli

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