Kannada may disappear in 100 years, warns scholar at literary fest

Eminent scholar Purushottama Bilimale quoted a UNESCO report which stated that the Kannada language is in the danger of reaching a point of stagnation in 50 years

Scholar and writer Purushottama Bilimale pointed out that the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution has 22 languages and 18 of them are from north India

The Kannada language could easily become obsolete and be phased out in the next 100 years, warned eminent scholar and writer Purushottama Bilimale. He even went on to cite a UNESCO report which stated that the Kannada language is in the danger of reaching a point of stagnation in 50 years to drive home his point.

Bilimale was speaking at a session on ‘The Future of Multilinguism’ on the first day of the two-day Bengaluru Literature Festival (BLF) which kicked off on Saturday (December 18). The tenth edition of the festival had a special focus on the languages of Karnataka.

The government had to implement a national language policy that adopts a holistic view of the situation in the country, he urged.

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To emphasise the fact that the Kannada language was in the danger of disappearing in the future, he quoted the analysis of census data from 1971 to 2011 that showed that the number of Hindi speakers in the country grew by 56 per cent. During the same time, Kannada speakers grew by a mere 3.75 per cent, while Telugu and Tamil language speakers grew by 9 per cent and Tulu speakers by 7 per cent.

This meant that if such a situation continued to prevail Kannada would no longer be used after 100 years. Therefore, the former Jawarharlal Nehru University professor requested the government to follow up on the recommendation made in the revised New Education Policy (NEP) that children should be taught in their regional language until class 8. The writer wanted the government to implement such rules rather than focus on changing higher education.

In his view, the “basics” should be put into effect first. Though the NEP states that the government’s expenditure on education should be at least 4 per cent of the GDP, the current spending is just 2.8 per cent. “It doesn’t look like the government is going to implement such a recommendation,” he said, according to media reports.

Also, Bilimale pointed out that 19,226 languages have not been recognised in the country. The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution has 22 languages, and 18 of them are from north India. In 2008, the Sitakant Mahapatra committee had recommended the inclusion of 38 languages, including Tulu and Kodava, but meanwhile the number of languages that deserve recognition had grown to 99, he said.

Bilimale felt the Union government wanted to avoid including more languages because this would mean that they would have to set up facilities and incur expenditure. That is the reason the government was not amending the Eighth Schedule, he added. The Kannada writer also attacked the Karnataka government for not recognising Tulu and Kodava as administrative languages. In his view, many states have more than one administrative language but the state government has failed to undertake such measures in Karnataka.