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Hindi hitch in Assembly

Bhubaneswar, June 16: Hindi may be the national language, the language Prime Minister Narendra Modi prefers while interacting with foreign dignitaries and even chief minister Naveen Patnaik would have little difficulty conversing in. But it faces a language barrier in the Assembly.

A piquant situation arose in the state legislature today when Speaker Niranjan Pujari denied an MLA permission to speak in Hindi during the Question Hour. The Congress MLA from Paralakhemundi, K. Surya Rao, took everyone by surprise when he began asking a question in the national language about house assistance provided by the state government to the people affected by cyclone Phailin in his constituency.

The 52-year-old legislator, who holds a diploma in mechanical engineering and has spent 26 years as a junior commissioned officer in the army, was stopped immediately by the Speaker. Pujari asked him to speak either in Odia or in English. Rao obliged and spoke in Odia. Later, he said: “Having spent a long time in the army, I am more comfortable in Hindi. Though I switched over to Odia, I could have expressed myself better in Hindi.” Though the Speaker gave no reasons for his directive, Assembly sources said that his advice to the member must have been based on the information that state legislature does not have a Hindi translator or stenographer. This would have made recording of the proceedings difficult.

Sources said that the Assembly never had a Hindi translator. Speaker Niranjan Pujari could not be contacted as the Assembly was in session until late in the evening to pass the motion of thanks on the governor’s address.

Former Speaker Sarat Kar said that the assembly was not equipped to translate speeches or comments made in Hindi. In the past, there were members who spoke in Hindi.

“If a member gives prior notice to the Speaker about his intention to ask a question or to deliver a speech in Hindi, arrangements for translation used to be made,” Kar said.