A reply by the Minister for External Affairs during question hour in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday caused Opposition member Shashi Tharoor to ask what is the purpose of making Hindi an official language in the United Nations.
As BJP members Laxman Giluwa and Rama Devi wanted to know what steps were being taken by the government to ensure this, Minister Sushma Swaraj said the process required a two-thirds majority vote, and that other countries using Hindi should share the expenditure incurred in making the language an official one. “We are ready to spend. But smaller countries such as Mauritius won’t be able to pay. We are negotiating with them,” she said.
In response to the Minister, Mr. Tharoor stood up and asked, “What purpose is being served by trying to make Hindi an official language in the United Nations? I understand the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister can speak in Hindi, but what if a future External Affairs Minister comes from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, who couldn’t speak in the language?”
Mr. Tharoor said, “Hindi has not been given the national language status in India. A Gujarat High Court ruling says that it is not the official language.” He also pointed out that though there were six official languages in the U.N., only two — English and French — were working languages, “just like how Hindi and English are working languages in India.”
Ms. Swaraj promptly responded that Hindi was not only spoken in India, but in countries such as Fiji, Mauritius, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, as well as by NRIs living in the United States.
During the winter session of Parliament in 2016, Ms. Swaraj stated in a written reply that the government was making every effort to accord official language status to Hindi in the U.N. “The government continues its efforts in popularising Hindi worldwide and for the acceptance of Hindi as one of the U.N. official languages. In this regard, one significant achievement has been the United Nations broadcasting its programmes on the U.N. Radio website in Hindi language also,” she had replied.
The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India lists 22 official languages. Fourteen were initially added to the Constitution. Sindhi was accorded official status in 1967, Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali in 1992, and Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali in 2004.
Mr. Tharoor was formerly the Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information at the U.N.