Why is Govt Only Issuing Coronavirus Advisories in Hindi and English?

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Many of the public health messages that the central government has released regarding COVID-19 have either been in Hindi or English | Image credit: Twitter

Many of the public health messages that the central government has released regarding COVID-19 have either been in Hindi or English | Image credit: Twitter

According to the 2011 Census, just about 25 percent of the total Indian population (about 422 million people) speak in Hindi.

Rakhi Bose
  • News18
  • Last Updated: March 17, 2020, 2:26 PM IST
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Some came forward on social media to call out the government on this selective use of Hindi to make important public health announcements without vernacular or regional translations despite a majority of Indians speaking languages other than Hindi.

"Even in times such as these, Central Government communications only feature #Hindi, at the expense of other Indian languages. Crises are when it becomes especially important to stress upon greater linguistic inclusion and reach, reinforcing systemic neglect is hardly a good idea," Bengaluru-based writer Karthik Malli wrote on Twitter while sharing a Ministry of Health tweet on coronavirus precautions.

Others such as Garga Chatterjee also expressed outrage against "Hindi imperialism" and asked the Bharatiya Janata Party government why it was sending coronavirus-related messaging written in Hindi to cell phones in "non-Hindi speaking states".

To put things in contrast, the Mexican government in wake of the pandemic asked public health instructions to be translated in 33 indigenous languages in order to ensure a majority of linguistic groups and not just the dominant ones receive the benefits.

Not just Mexico, back home the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala has received praise for issuing advisories not just in Malayalam but also in Bengali and Hindi, owing to the high volume of migrant workers in the state.

With the lack of coronavirus advisories in regional languages, several individuals have come forth to crowd-source translations of advisories in Hindi or English to other regional languages.

Others such as Dirag Biswas have started websites that contain information regarding coronavirus in various languages. However, governments and health officials have repeatedly warned against relying on unreliable information. With a variety of myths and fake news related to the COVID-19 pandemic doing the rounds, it makes sense to only rely on official and trusted sources.

According to the 2011 Census, just about 25 percent of the total Indian population (about 422 million people) spoke in Hindi. Why then is the government not making efforts to provide adequate information to all Indians including the non-Hindi speaking ones?

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