In 2008, the Akali-BJP regime enacted the Punjabi Language Act to ensure mandatory teaching of Punjabi from Class 1 in all schools of the state. Eight years on, 40 schools in five districts have been found cocking a snook at the law, with the state government finally rousing itself from slumber.
During random checking recently, 15 schools in Ludhiana district, 12 in Pathankot, seven in SAS Nagar, five in Rupnagar and one in Barnala were found to be defaulters.
When contacted, education minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said he had told senior officials concerned to submit a detailed report in this regard within a month.
The defaulters are being issued notices to fall in line by the next academic session, beginning in April 2016, the minister said.
“I was taken by surprise after this preliminary check. Going by the number of such defaulters in only five districts, the total across the state must be more than 100,” Dr Cheema added.
The minister said he had asked literary organisations such as the Punjabi Sahit Akademi and Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha to initiate a drive in private schools for promoting the language on priority.
The minister said district education officers (DEOs) had now been empowered to take strict action against defaulters, besides enforcing the law effectively in all schools.
The order empowering the DEOs was issued on December 14, 2015, by the secretary, higher education and languages, KAP Sinha, to enforce the law under Section 6 of the Act.
When asked about the belated response, the minister said the onus had been on the language department to empower DEOs to take action against the defaulting schools, adding that the issue had been resolved after he took it up with language minister Surjit Singh Rakhra.
Before he went on deputation with the Centre, C Roul, during his tenure as principal secretary, school education, had in November last year taken up the matter with the language department to effectively enforce the law in schools.
Roul had taken legal advice from the state’s legal remembrancer (LR) for empowering DEOs in this regard.
Roul’s predecessor Anjali Bhawra had in February 2014 issued orders to all deputy commissioners in the state to ensure mandatory teaching of Punjabi from classes 1 to 10 under Section 3(1) of the Punjabi Language Act.
The order dated February 19, 2014, read: “It has come to the government’s notice that a huge number of private schools affiliated to the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) or ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) are not falling in line with the said Act. There are also reports that many institutions even punish pupils for speaking in Punjabi on the school premises.
This practice shows disrespect to the Punjabi language that became the basis of the existence of the state, Thus, such institutions should be asked to halt the practice.”