Language barrier impedes infra projects, push for Hindi, suggests central road body
Phulva Kumari, 38, from Bijnor district in Uttar Pradesh has been working at the construction of Barapullah phase-3 construction site for nearly eight months. When she first began work here she did not understand a single word of English.
“I am illiterate. I could not understand what the supervisor meant when he told us to ‘mix cement’, ‘inches’ and ‘turn’. Gradually, my fellow workers helped me and I started understanding what the supervisor needed me to do,” said Kumari.
Mukesh Kumar Meena, a contractor with government agencies in Delhi and the neighbouring satellite towns, said that for many projects that he has undertaken the project supervisors and officer in-charges belong to states where Hindi is not the first language.
“In one of the flyover projects in Delhi, the project in-charge is a south Indian. He speaks fluent English but sometimes we cannot understand him. How will we pass on instructions, if we cannot understand these ourselves? There are these minor hiccups, but we find solutions and complete work within the deadlines,” Meena said.
According to the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), the language barrier is one of the reasons why many large-scale infrastructure projects suffer delays and drop in quality. Its solution: make Hindi a common language in the construction filed. This means all documents, and on-field communication be made in Hindi.
This was recommended after a brainstorming session between transport and infrastructure experts on Friday.
Ravindra Kumar, principal scientist, transportation planning division CSIR- CRRI said that the country is sprinting towards developing road and smart city infrastructure but communication barriers during construction is still one of the primary reasons for these projects to miss deadlines.
“There are a number of times when there is a communication gap due to their language barrier, which affects the quality as well as cost and time overruns of the project. To understand implementation at grass-root level, it is desired that instruction or communications are given in the language, which the workforce understands,” he said.
He explained that in many projects the language used in documents, guidelines and exchange is often English because of the medium of their education is English. The projects, however, are implemented on-ground by labourers, contractual skilled and semi-skilled workforce and they mainly understand and speak Hindi or the vernacular. The number of this workforce is quite large as compared to their managers or the engineers.
Even though engineers understand and communicate in Hindi on-site, the language is mostly urbanised with excessive use of English words, experts said.
“It is recommended that Hindi should be essential language in the field of science and technology. There is a need to develop the design guideline, operational and training manuals in the Hindi language, as it is understood by the large workforce. This is only possible if Hindi is used frequently in scientific and technical field,” the panel said.
A senior PWD official, who is associated with phase-3 of the Barapullah elevated corridor, said that there were many occasions when the senior engineers from the other part of the country had a tough time in explaining the mode of the work to the grass-root workforce. Similarly, semi-skilled and unskilled workers had to often toil hard to understand a work manual to execute a particular task.
“To address these language barriers we take help of other colleagues, who know Hindi, and play the role of an interpreter. Sometimes training sessions are organized for the engineers and the workers,” he said.