Mr. Feisal Ali (firstname.lastname@example.org) contributed photograhs (sic) – Khwaja Mohammed Azam, a member of the Indian National Congress based in Ludhiana; friend of Jawaharlal Nehru; picture taken in 1947 when Nehru visited Ludhiana and stayed at Khwaja Mohammed Azam’s residence. (Pic courtesy – oldindianphotos.blogspot.com.). Click for larger picture.
n 15th August 1947, when Nehru made his ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech, he made a choice for India favoring English.
Status quo is not choice
At that time, an Indian economy in tatters and technologically stagnant, it was necessary choice.
To stay with the choice, 70 years later, is an expensive choice based on legacy and ease.
For instance, India’s recent success with the software industry, has been hobbled due to over-reliance on English language.
In the last 60 years, the issue of English language has acquired a tone of chauvinism, a smell of regionalism and parochialism. Over the last 24 months, 2ndlook has been making out a case against English language. Not on chauvinistic appeal but rooted in economic logic, on political advantage, on long-term benefit. To move forward, not on legacy, but by choice.
It was rather good to see this post linked below, which echoed the 2ndlook logic partly. Where this post missed out was how India software success also failed due to English language!
All the same, knowledge of English is probably an over-rated virtue. As the crisis over the Commonwealth Games has demonstrated, it cannot act as a guarantor of execution ability, efficiency or even honesty. Increasingly, it is becoming an alibi for the lack of enablers within the Indian system for talent to rise, irrespective of linguistic provenance and patronage. India makes much of the fact that its English-speaking population base has been turned to profitable use in the vast information technology (IT) and back office industry. In many ways, IT defines the dynamic new India. But surely independent India’s genius must go beyond leveraging a colonial heritage. (via Kanika Datta: The language of progress).
The Elite is using tax-payer money to create passports for their families to ‘escape’ to the English-speaking West. | Jerry Holbert cartoon on Monday, February 9, 2009; image source & courtesy – townhall.com
What is India missing out on …
India’s biggest economic success in the last 20 years has been the maturing of the software industry. That has also been its biggest failure.
Between 70%-80% of Indian software business comes from two countries – USA and UK. English speaking countries – both of them. Total software business to these two countries is about US$35-40 billion – out of total Indian software exports of US$50 billion. UK alone contributes nearly 60% of total EU software business to India.
India is losing business opportunities due to India’s loyalty to The Great British Gift To India – English Language. We can’t do business with the French or Germans, Spanish or the Arabic speaking world. The Chinese and Japanese are out of bounds to us – as are the Swahili and the Bantu.
English – The language of progress? Cartoon published in Times Of India on 14th December 1958 – Fifty years earlier. Cartoon by RK Laxman; republished in 2008.
In the past few years …
Like an earlier post pointed out, the lack of language skills has stopped Indians from exploiting the Japanese opportunity. This includes the software business. Same story in Europe also – major opportunities overlooked and ignored. RBI in the meanwhile has been complaining how India’s own IT players have been pretty useless in building a software platform for financial inclusion of India’s poor in the formal economic sector.
This is also true of other business opportunities also. Our ‘success’ with English blinds us to the bigger and larger opportunities that stare at us. And the first thing that we need to do is to diversify our language basket. But with our bankruptcy of ideas on restructuring Indian education system or the vested interest banging begging bowls in front of the Indian tax payer!
India missed out on Japanese investments, technology and business – due to a well-cultivated tunnel vision about English language (amongst many other things). Indian loyalty to English language exceeds the loyalty of the British themselves to their language – and we refuse to see how this affects us.
Is it due to the apparent Indian decision to tie its future to the sinking ship of the Anglo Saxon Bloc?
The Indian ‘elephant’ bows to English language, legacy and red-tape. | Cartoon by David Simonds; courtesy – guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 July 2010 00.06 BST.
What India needs …
India should set up 7 specialized universities. One for Chinese and Japanese studies. Another university needs to focus on Franco-German language skills. A third must devote itself to creating a centre of excellence in Swahili and Bantu. A fourth must address the Spanish and Portuguese language markets. The fifth must address the SE Asian languages of Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. A sixth university must address the Russian and Slavic languages. Last and definitely, not the least, the seventh university must create a core of qualified and skilled people using Persian and Arabic languages.
This is, of course, apart from Indian language universities.