New Delhi: The Centre spent a whopping Rs 643.84 crore on the promotion of Sanskrit in the last three years, which is 22 times the total amount of Rs 29 crore spent on the other five classical Indian languages – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Odia, figures released by the Union Ministry of Culture show.
According to a Hindustan Times report, at the same time, the government has not created a separate fund for the promotion of Malayalam and Odia and has not established any centre of excellence to promote the other classical Indian languages.
On February 3, in response to an unstarred question by three Shiv Sena MPs and two BJP MPs, the Union Ministry of Culture released these figures.
As per the reply, the Centre held that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had established the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan – and allocated Rs 643.84 crore to it in the last three years – in Delhi as a nodal authority to promote Sanskrit. In 2019-20, the Sansthan was allocated Rs 231.15 crore, Rs 214.38 crore in 2018-19, and Rs 198.31 crore in 2017-18.
However, in contrast, the Centre’s spending on Tamil via the Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), which comes under the MHRD, was significantly reduced.
In 2017-18, the Central Institute of Classical Tamil was given an allocation of Rs 10.59 crore, in 2018-19 it was allocated Rs 4.65 crore and Rs 7.7 crore in 2019-20. For Telugu and Kannada, the Centres of Excellence for Studies was established at the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) in Mysore in 2011. Afterwards, the Telugu Centre for Excellence was shifted to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.
“The University Grants Commission has also approved a Centre for Classical Languages in Telugu in University of Hyderabad and a Centre for Classical Languages in Kannada in Central University of Karnataka,” the Centre said.
The allocations for Kannada and Telugu were also meagre with Rs 1 crore each in 2017-18, Rs 99 lakh in 2018-19 and Rs 1.07 crore in 2019-20.
The reply to the unstarred question also said that the MHRD was “considering setting up” Centres of Excellence for Odia and classical Malayalam.
The sharp discrepancies in the allocations for promotions of different languages have brought into focus a long-standing debate among linguistic communities about which languages are conferred classical status. MPs from Maharashtra question why Marathi is not considered a classical language.
Previously, in 2014, the Rajya Sabha had held that a language was considered to be classical if there existed a “high antiquity” of its recorded history over a period of 1,500-2,000 years or if its body of ancient literature was considered valuable by generations of speakers, its literary tradition was original and not borrowed from another speech community and the classical version of the language was distinct from its modern version.
The debate about preferential treatment to Sanskrit over other languages – especially Urdu – was recently reignited when it was announced that the names of railway stations which were written in Urdu would now be written in Sanskrit which was the second official language of the state.
“Instead of Hindi, English and Urdu, the names of railway stations on platform signboards across Uttarakhand will now be written in Hindi, English and Sanskrit,” a railway official said.
Another recent incident that highlighted the growing feeling of unease about the subordination of other languages was when, last week, DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran questioned the relevance of Sanskrit in Lok Sabha which prompted heated criticism. Maran said that crores of rupees were being spent on Sanskrit and questioned as to what the government had done for the classical language Tamil.
Maran’s remarks came on the heels of a controversy on whether the rituals at the historic Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur were to be conducted in Tamil or Sanskrit.
In a statement issued on January 18, DMK President M.K. Stalin said that the temple was a symbol of the Dravidian architecture and urged that the entire ceremony be held in Tamil instead of Sanskrit
Last week at an event organised by Begur Brahmin Association, Karnataka’s deputy chief minister announced that 43 Sanskrit schools in the state would be given a grant in the upcoming budget.
“The development that we see in the country is not enough. We need to be strengthened culturally. Religious and culture work is being done in Begur Brahmin Association, along with study of Vedas. In this regard, MLA Krishnappa has decided to grant Rs 50 lakh funds to the association,” he said.
Last year in December, at a Lok Sabha debate about the Sanskrit University Bill, BJP MP Ganesh Singh cited certain studies to claim speaking Sanskrit every day “boosts the nervous system and keeps diabetes and cholesterol at bay”. He also said, “according to a [study] by US space research organisation NASA, if computer programming is done in Sanskrit, it will be flawless.” Both claims are false.
The Sanskrit University Bill, which had been moved by the Union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal aimed at converting the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan and Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Delhi and the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Tirupati to central universities.