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House scrap on Hindi at UN

Can spend any amount, says sushma; why, asks shashi

Shashi Tharoor
Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday asked Parliament why future foreign ministers and Prime Ministers who may be from Tamil Nadu or Bengal should be "condemned" to speak Hindi, questioning external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's push for making Hindi an official language at the United Nations.

This was met with a curt reply from Sushma: "This shows your ignorance".

The Congress MP and former UN official had intervened during Question Hour after Sushma said the government was ready to spend "any amount" to make Hindi an official language at the UN.

"What purpose is being served by this? If, indeed, we have a Prime Minister or a foreign minister who prefers to speak Hindi, they can do so and we can pay for that speech to be translated. Why should we put our future foreign ministers and Prime Ministers who may be from Tamil Nadu or West Bengal in a position where they are condemned to be speaking a language for which we are paying?" he asked.

He pointed out that Hindi was India's official, not national, language. He acknowledged the pride of Hindi speakers while underlining that people in India also took pride in speaking other languages.

Tharoor had interjected after Sushma had replied to a question from two BJP members about steps the government had taken to get Hindi recognised as the official language at the UN.

She blamed the UN's procedures for the delay. Sushma said such recognition required a two-thirds majority vote among the UN's 193 member-countries and for them to share the expenditure.

"The government is ready to spend any amount for the pride attached with raj bhasha (national language)," she said. "We are ready to spend but smaller countries such as Mauritius won't be able to pay and so, we are negotiating with them."

Tharoor picked the term " raj bhasha" to point out that Hindi was not India's national language. "Bharat has no 'raj bhasha'. Article 343 of the Constitution makes it very clear that Hindi is an official language. So for us to be spending government resources in seeking to promote Hindi in this manner raises an important question," he said.

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