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Our netas should fiercely advocate better quality English education

comment Updated: Nov 30, 2013 22:15 IST
Chanakya

I hope I don’t run into Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav one of these days. He might take objection to the fact that this column criticising his call for a ban on English in Parliament is written in English.

And I am no challenge for the Uttar Pradesh strongman who developed his muscles in the wrestling akhara.

Now you will ask, who will take this grouse of the month seriously?

But coming from a leader of national importance, and one who may well become the prime ministerial candidate, or so he hopes, for a third front should that formation come into force before or after the next election, we cannot but take it at face value.

The very idea that English should not be spoken in Parliament is so absurd that it will be rejected out of hand by the many MPs whose mother tongue is not Hindi.

What Netaji, as he is referred to by his partymen, hoped to gain by this remark is anyone’s guess. Mine is that he is trying to stay in the limelight when the party has no real achievements to show for his son Akhilesh Yadav’s tenure as chief minister so far.

Oh, and need I remind you that Yadav junior studied in Australia, not well known for its Hindi speaking skills.

If Yadav senior thought he was appealing to some vote-bank, let me assume the poorer sections of society, then he clearly has lost his famous political acuity.
The poor are willing, as survey after survey has shown, to commit a disproportionate amount of their household income to getting their children educated, preferably in English medium schools. If they have understood the advantages of an English education, it is passing strange that a leader like Yadav has not, or as I suspect is pretending not to.

He just has to look at West Bengal where long ago and far away, misguided politicians did away with English in schools. The result was that a generation grew up in the once imperial city with few or no English skills.

It is not my case that one disregards one’s mother tongue, but let us understand that English is the link language in the world today, it is what drives the multi-accented Indian IT industry, it is the sole language of aviation, it is what gets tourism ticking. The Chinese are willing to hock their family heirlooms to get an English education.

And they are going about it with a military-like precision.

Even without Yadav’s gratuitous remarks, the quality of English education across our schools and colleges, barring the elite institutions, is pretty poor. It is not as though a student graduating from an English-medium college can carry on a conversation in the Queen’s English without supplementary coaching.

But it does give one a foothold through the door of global opportunities.

Our netas should be doing the opposite of what Yadav is doing. They should be fiercely advocating better quality English education across the country. I can hardly imagine that his son who speaks English with a bit of spit and polish shares these sentiments.

We have so many more pressing issues without Yadav trying to restart the move of shunning English in Parliament or anywhere else for that matter.

He ought to use his stature as an uber leader to give a hiding to people in his party like the unprepossessing Naresh Agarwal who routinely rushes in where angels fear to tread.

While the nation was reeling from the revelations about a leading editor’s conduct at a function where he allegedly molested a junior colleague and other incidents of violence against women were taking place in other parts of the country, Agarwal made a series of what I can only call creepy remarks about how organisations may now be wary of employing women.

He then went on to say that women should dress modestly to protect themselves, a common argument among his tribe.

Imagine what a signal it would send if Mulayam Singh Yadav were to publicly berate this man, or even send him packing. But no, he prefers to try and stop everyone from speaking English. Maybe he would like to tell us where his grandchildren study. I am sure it must be in the local pathshala.

He is an anachronism even among the political class in his views on English. Many of our politicians speak fluently in English, better than their counterparts on the global stage.

It is simply not an issue with them whether they speak English on the occasion, most are fluent in their native languages as well.

Mr Yadav, the language wars in India are long over. Yes, caste battles are still there and you are no stranger to those. Funny how you seem to be the champion of much that is regressive and holding India backward even as you hope to get into the top seat in Delhi.

Luckily, this time around, the English ban drama did not excite much excitement.

People had moved on to other issues and really did not care too much about someone trying to rake up a faded old argument.

If Yadav has a lot of time on his hands, and he should not, considering many in the SP flock are covetously eyeing other parties in the state as elections draw near, maybe he should be boning up on political science, in Hindi of course.