Jharkhand officials irked by tribal language decree
May 10, 2007 - 8:03:45 AM

Ranchi, May 10 - The Jharkhand government's move to make knowledge of at least one tribal language mandatory for government officials has triggered anger among the mass of employees.

The promotion, increment and salary of government officials in Jharkhand will henceforth depend on their knowledge of one of four tribal languages - Ho, Mundari, Kurukh and Santhali.

Officials have been directed to learn one of them within 18 months and take a test to prove their proficiency. The results would determine promotions.

In Jharkhand, tribals constitute 27 percent of the state's 27 million population. No tribal language has been given second language status in the state. But books exist in all tribal languages.

A senior officer says there is nothing new in the order.

'The government has just implemented the undivided Bihar government order formulated in 1953. The order had directed gazetted employees posted in the then southern Bihar to learn a tribal language,' said P.C. Hembrom, joint secretary in the personnel department and a tribal.

The language rule will affect all employees.

The officials argued that such orders were strictly implemented in states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

'In Tamil Nadu, only those IAS - officers who have a knowledge of Tamil are posted in districts. In West Bengal, knowing Bengali is a must,' said another government official.

Government business in Jharkhand is now conducted in Hindi. Officials say the move is aimed at creating better understanding between the officials and tribals so that development work can be expedited.

Most officials are not happy with the directive.

'The move is just a way to appease the tribals. The order is motivated by vote bank politics. The ministers should first learn the tribal language as they are public representatives,' said a furious deputy secretary who is originally from Bihar.

The officials also pointed out that any one tribal language is not spoken all over the state.

'Santhali is spoken and written only in the four districts of Santhal Parganas. Ho, Kurukh and Mundari are spoken at different places. Employees are transferred from one district to another on a regular basis. How will learning one language help?' asked the official.

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