Friday, December 7, 2012

Speak English or Pay Fine - Unjust Rule prevalent in St.Thomas School - AIPA writes to U.P. Chief Minister

ALL INDIA PARENTS ASSOCIATION Agarwal Bhawan, G. T. Road, Tis Hazari, Delhi – 110054 To Shri Akhilesh Yadav Chief Minister Government of Uttar Pradesh 5, Kalidas Marg Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 07.12.2012 Subject: Speak English or Pay Fine - Objectionable rule prevalent in St. Thomas School, Indirapuram, U.P. Dear Sir The parents have brought to our notice the highly objectionable, unreasonable and illegal rule imposed by St Thomas School, Gyan Khand-II, Indirapuram, Ghaziabad upon its students. Under this rule, the students are required to compulsory speak English even for personal communication amongst each other within the school premises. If any student is found speaking in Hindi, his or her I-card is confiscated and he or she is made to pay a penalty of ten rupees to get the I-card back. Teachers have been assigned the task of monitoring the implementation of this rule and to keep an eye upon the students for this purpose. It is to be noted that the school does not give any receipt in lieu of the penalty paid, nor is there any transparency about how much money is collected by way of this exercise, towards which fund it is appropriated and how it is utilized. However, the larger question is of the freedom of expression, personal liberty and respect for one’s mother-tongue. Firstly, such sort of a gag-order against Hindi-speaking is grossly violative of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of our Constitution. The Preamble to our Constitution also guarantees liberty of expression to all its citizens. It is also a well-recognized human right which features as Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of choice of language is integral to the freedom of expression. The absolute restriction upon Hindi-speaking is by no means a reasonable one and therefore cannot be sustained. Secondly, an institution can determine the language of official correspondence, but so far as personal communication is concerned, it is nobody’s business to dictate which language is to be used. It is purely a matter of personal choice. By commanding the students to use only English in their conversations itself is a violation of their personal liberty and privacy. Further, it is implicit in this dictat that the teachers assigned the task of monitoring the implementation of this rule shall be spying upon and listening to all the conversations between the students all the time, which is a gross violation of the students’ privacy. The students may have several topics of discussion amongst each other including teachers’ performance and the school-which are best left free from the teachers’ spy-network. Thirdly, it is unnatural to expect an individual not to speak his mother-tongue in his daily life. Even when an individual settles away from his linguistic territory, he still continues to use his own language in his interactions with people belonging to his own linguistic community. In addition to natural tendency and instinct to speak one’s mother-tongue, it is also a question closely related to one’s cultural self-esteem and sense of homeliness. Even some of the teachers of the school who belong the Malayalam speaking community converse in Malayalam amongst each other in the school and there is no reason why only Hindi-speaking should be so penalized. The Preamble of our Constitution assures “dignity to the individual”. When a student is penalized for speaking his own mother-tongue, it is very likely that his self-pride or sense of dignity and linguistic sentiments are hurt. Speaking one’s own language is thus equated to committing a wrong by way of this rule which is derogatory to Hindi as a language. Howsoever laudable the purpose of preparing the students for the global jobs market may be, it cannot justify such punitive measure which compels a child to give up his first language, his vernacular. English is only a second language to the students and it cannot forcefully be imposed as a replacement of the first language. It is needless to emphasise that Hindi has been declared by the Constitution to be the Official language of the Union under Article 347 of our Constitution. It is highly useful to help students retain their touch with Hindi and also to polish their expression ability in Hindi. This would not only better equip them for their future but also help promote interest for the highly rich Hindi literature, which is the most authentic source of understanding our society. The over-emphasis upon English speaking at the cost of Hindi is resulting in ignorance of Hindi literature amongst the young generation. This phenomenon is not only affecting the development of the literature but also resulting in widening of the urban-rural divide. The balance between global and jobs-market compulsions on one hand and the need for understanding our society and urban-rural cohesion on the other hand has to be meticulously maintained as the same is to have a crucial bearing upon all aspects of our country’s future in the times to come. I sincerely appeal to you to reflect upon the issue, look into the same and issue appropriate directions to this school to stop this practice, thereby giving out a clear message to the all other schools and the society at large. Further, since the money has been illegally collected by the school, the school must be instructed to refund to the students all the money so collected and not to indulge in any such illegal collections from the students or parents in future. With regards Ashok Agarwal, Advocate National President, AIPA M: - 09811101923

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