Friday 28 September 2012

Think rationally about learning Hindi and it will make sense

I have seen some of the criticism in The Hindu to my article “Required, two tongues” (Op-Ed, September 20, 2012). I am a totally democratic person, and do not mind criticism at all. However, I would like to give my response:

(1) I have said that I am totally opposed to the imposition of Hindi in Tamil Nadu, or anywhere else for that matter. In the function at Anna University in Chennai, where I spoke recently, I advised Tamilians to learn Hindi. After my speech an elderly gentleman got up and said that Tamilians should not be compelled to learn Hindi, and English was good enough to be the link language in India. I replied that I was totally against any compulsion. If my suggestion that Tamilians should learn Hindi made sense to Tamilians, they should accept it, but if it did not make sense to them, they should reject it. Where is the compulsion? It is not fair to distort what I said.

(2) Tamil cannot be compared to Hindi, not because Hindi is superior to Tamil (I hold all languages in equal respect) but because it is much more widespread. Tamil is only spoken in Tamil Nadu, which has a population of 72 million. But Hindi is spoken not only in the Hindi belt, but in most non-Hindi states as a second language. In the Hindi belt there are 200 million people in Uttar Pradesh, 82 million in Bihar, 75 million in Madhya Pradesh, 69 million in Rajasthan, 27 million in Jharkhand, 26 million in Chhattisgarh, 26 million in Haryana, and seven million in Himachal Pradesh. Taking into account Hindi speakers in the non-Hindi belt in India (Punjab, West Bengal, Kashmir, Orissa, Assam and other North Eastern States,Telangana, etc), the number of Hindi speakers would be about 15 times that of Tamil speakers. Apart from that, Pakistanis (who number about 200 million) also speak Hindi, though they call it Urdu. How then can Tamil be compared with Hindi? Tamil is only a regional language, while Hindi is a national language. This is not because Hindi is superior to Tamil, but due to certain historical and social reasons.

(3) English is the link language only for the elite in India, and not for the common man. Anyone coming from Tamil Nadu to other parts of India will realise this. Without knowing Hindi he will experience great difficulty (in fact one of the Tamilian judges in the Supreme Court told me very recently that he had made a great mistake in not learning Hindi since he was finding it difficult in Delhi, but now he has started learning Hindi ). Only about five per cent of Indians know English (though I myself have appealed to people to learn English, since much of the knowledge of the world is in English, and I have strongly criticised those who say “ Angrezi Hatao (abolish English”). In fact Hindi is already the link language for Indians, even for many South Indians, as I had explained in my article.

(4) When I was Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, I once went to a shop in Madurai. To my surprise I heard the Tamilian shopkeeper speaking to someone on the telephone in Hindi. Since I had picked up some Tamil I said to him, “ Romba nalla Hindi pesreenga. Eppadi ? (You are speaking such good Hindi. How is that?”) He replied, “ Arasiyalle Hindi vendaamnu solvaanga, aanaa engalikkubusiness pananum. Adnaal kathukitten . (Politicians say that we do not want Hindi, but we have to do business. So I have learnt Hindi”). I think this shopkeeper had more sense than those who oppose Hindi.

(5) I dislike both Hindi haters as well as those who wish to impose Hindi on Tamil Nadu and other States. The issue should be considered rationally, instead of emotionally. No one can dispute that Tamil is a great language, with great literary works like Tirukkural, Silapathiharam, Manimekhalai, Kambar Ramayanam , and in more recent times, the great poems of the nationalist poet Subramania Bharathi and many others. I fully support the demand that lawyers in the Madras High Court should be allowed to argue in Tamil (except before judges who have come on a transfer from other States), though judgments should be in English so that people from other States can read them. When in the Supreme Court, I would sometimes speak a few sentences in Tamil when a Tamilian lawyer appeared before me. I think I was the first Judge in the history of the Supreme Court to speak in Tamil in court.

I would appeal to Tamilians to once again consider my suggestion that they should learn Hindi. If my suggestion does not make sense, please reject it.

Published in The Hindu on 28th September,2012

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Game change

Game change has a different connotation to different people.

To my mind in India game change cannot mean change in the government or in the political leaders or in the laws or in the judicial system. Game change in a poor country like India can have only one real meaning: raising the standard of living of the masses.

            Presently about 80% of the  1200 million people in India are living in terrible poverty, with massive unemployment, skyrocketing prices, lack of proper healthcare, education, housing, etc. So game change in India means abolishing these huge evils, and giving the Indian people a decent life.

            Before the Industrial Revolution, which began in Western Europe (firstly in England and then in France) in the mid 18th Century, and then spread all over the world, there were feudal agricultural societies everywhere. The feudal methods and tools of production (the bullock in India and the horse in Europe) were so primitive that very little wealth could be generated by them. Hence only a handful of people like kings and aristocrats could be rich, while the rest of society had to be poor. When the cake is small obviously very few people can eat it.

            This situation has drastically changed after the Industrial Revolution. Now a unique situation has arisen in world history, namely, that now nobody need be poor, because the modern methods of production, i.e. modern industry, is so powerful and so big that enough wealth can be generated to meet the basic needs of all, and give everyone in the world a decent life.

            This being the new, unique situation in world history it is only natural that the poor people in the world (who are 80% of the world population) are demanding a decent life, and saying that now that they do not have  to be poor, why should they be poor?

The 21st Century will therefore be a game changer. It will be characterized by the struggles by peoples all over the world for a better life, and result in creation of societies free of the social evils above mentioned.

 In India consider the following facts: 

(1) 47% Indian children are malnourished, a figure much higher than the poorest countries in sub Saharan Africa (Somalia and Ethiopia) where 33% children are malnourished. 

(2)  2,50,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 15 years, a world record of farmer’s suicides (average 47 suicides per day, which is still going on). This period has seen the greatest migration of rural people to urban areas, looking for jobs which are not there (somewhat like the migration of the ‘Okies’ from Oklahoma and other states in U.S.A. to California, depicted in  John Steinbeck’s novel ‘Grapes of Wrath’). These millions have ended up in our cities as domestic workers, street hawkers, beggars, criminals, and prostitutes.  

(3) Unemployment is massive in India. Even for a peon’s job there are thousands of applications, some even from M.As, M.Scs, and M.B.As. 

(4) Healthcare is in a terrible state in India, except for the very rich or V.I.P.s. Consequently quackery is widely prevalent in many places and jholechap ‘doctors’ are flourishing.

 (5) Primary and middle level education is in a terrible state, while the government pours in a huge amount of money in I.I.Ts and other prominent institutions of higher education like J.N.U. etc (see my article ‘Professor Heal thyself’ ) 

(6) Prices of foodstuffs etc are skyrocketing. Even vegetables are about Rs. 45 per kilo.

 (7) 77% people in India are living on Rs. 25 a day. It is a miracle how they are surviving.

            It is evident that 80% people in India are living in dire poverty. Game change in India can therefore have only one meaning: abolishing poverty in India, and giving the masses a decent life. There are no doubt fundamental rights in our Constitution, e.g. Right to life, freedom of speech, liberty, equality etc. but these are meaningless to a man who is poor, hungry and unemployed. Therefore it is the duty of all patriotic people to help our country abolish poverty, unemployment, and other social evils. That alone can be regarded as a game change. How this will be done is for the people themselves to find out, using their creativity.      

Thursday 20 September 2012

Required, two tongues

English and Hindi have irreplaceable roles in national integration and ensuring progress

​Since Hindi Diwas is being celebrated today, I decided to write this article.

​When I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court I would be invited by the High Court Bar Association on the occasion of Hindi Diwas which was celebrated every year in a function inthe Bar Library. I would tell the office bearers of the Bar Association that I would not like to come to the function because what I would say would create a controversy. However, theywould insist and plead that I come and speak.

At the function many speakers would say “Agrezi Hatao”, that is, abolish Hindi from our country. Some would disparagingly describe English as a ‘dasi’ (slave girl).

When my turn came to speak I would tell the audience that if their children did not learn English they would only be fit to drive bullock carts (Hal chalane layak rah jayenge). I said I, too, love Hindi which is my mother tongue but that does not mean I should behave like a fool. All knowledge in the world is in English. If one went to an Engineering college all the the books are in English, similarly all the books in a Medical College are in English. If one wanted to study history, economics, philosophy, science,literature etc the books are all in English. How could one do without English? It is totally stupid to say “Agrezi Hatao”, and only enemies of their children talk like that. In fact we mustspread English more in our country for the country’s progress. So, on the occasion of HindiDiwas I make the same appeal.

However, at the same time I appeal to the people of the non speaking Hindi speakingstates like Tamil Nadu to learn Hindi, because it is the link language in our country. Forinstance, Tamilians face great difficulty when they come out of Tamil Nadu, because they do not know Hindi.

When I met the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu some time back I told her that Tamilians should learn Hindi as it is in their interest to do so. She told me that Tamilians were indeed learning Hindi upto the 1960s, and Hindi was spreading in Tamil Nadu by Hindi films and Hindi Prachar Sabhas. But then some North Indians decided to impose Hindi on the South, and this created a strong reaction, and Tamilians stopped learning Hindi. I told her that it was wrong on the part of some North Indian politicians to try to impose Hindi in the South. This is the age of democracy, and nothing should be imposed. However what has happened has happened, and now my appeal to the people of Tamil Nadu is that they should learn Hindi. Recently I spoke to students of Anna University in Chennai, and advised them to learn Hindi I have received several e-mails from some of the students, who have said that they have started learning Hindi.

In my speech in Anna University I mentioned that when I was Chief Justice of Madras High Court I was invited to a function in Gulbarga, which is in north Karnataka. I flew from Chennai to Hyderabad where I caught a taxi to Gulbarga. The Prof. of Gulbarga Universitywho came to receive me was a Kannada speaking gentleman while the taxi driver was Telugu speaking, but they spoke to each other in Hindi .I was surprised that two South Indians should speak to each other in Hindi. I asked the Prof. for the reason. He said it was because Hindi was their link language. He did not now Telugu, while the taxi driver did not know Kannada, but they both knew Hindi. This shows that Hindi is the link language in much of India. In fact most people even in the non Hindi belt like Punjab, Bengal, Kashmir, North East, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, etc can speak Hindi. Hindi is even spoken in Pakistan, where it is called Urdu. Thus, knowledge of Hindi makes it easy to communicate in much of the Indian sub continent.

On the occasion of Hindi Diwas, I appeal to the people of India to learn Hindi and English, but nothing should be imposed.

(Published in The Hindu on September 20, 2012)

Monday 17 September 2012


(A Concept Note)

India has a very rich composite cultural heritage. There is a harmonious blend of art, religion and philosophy in the India cultural. Indian culture is actually an outcome of the continuous fusion of different cultures.  This culture, which is epitomised in Ganja Jamuni heritage of India is also named as “Urdu-Sanskrit Culture” by Justice Markandey Katju. The Indian Heritage Caravan is designed to uphold and promote the secular and plural cultural heritage of India.


LANGUAGE has many uses—a means of communication, an instrument of transmitting knowledge, an expression of cultural and creative urges of a community. Urdu clearly is the language of the cultured and the elite yet ‘Hindustani’ is the only language to find a distinct flavour with the masses and is a part of the popular culture also.

Urdu is not just the mother tongue of a large number of people but its literature and poetry is loved beyond all religious and ethnic pretensions by a very large section of the Indian population. In fact, Urdu’s canvas is bigger than this. It is widely read, written and spoken not just in the sub-continent, but in the Middle East, American, South Asian & European countries as well.

Urdu literature and poetry has a very rich and varied cultural heritage and has been instrumental in playing a pivotal role in the freedom struggle. Poems like “Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna Ab Hamare Dil Mein Hai & Saare Jahan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara still have the same capability to resonate the feeling of patriotism among the masses.  Stories like Kafan, Balidan, Namak Ka Darogha of Prem Chand and Toba Tek Singh,  Thanda Gosht of Sa’adat Hasan Manto have stood the test of time both in their relevance and from their contemporariness. Urdu geets and ghazals are used commonly in Bollywood films. Besides, Urdu Mushairas and Sham-e-Ghazal are also very popular because of their immediacy… and the instant response that the poets and singers receive for their creations. The interaction with the audience and their constant “Waah! Waah” keep the atmosphere electric.

Beside, Urdu is generally epitomised with the composite culture of India i.e. Ganga Jamni Tahzeeb. By promoting Urdu’s cultural heritage, we aim to promote the basic soul of our composite culture. Therefore, we are planning take top contemporary Urdu writers, poets, playwrights, Ghazal signers and the experts of different creative forms of Urdu literature and culture to the different parts of the country and abroad with the to showcase their cultural performances and promote their valuable thoughts and ideas.

“Urdu Heritage Carvan” is basically an idea to associate masses with this the indigenous cultural heritage of Urdu. We also aim to remove the misconception about this language that it is a foreign language and is a language of Muslims alone. In fact, before 1947 Urdu was the common language of a large part of the educated people in India.

We have distributed our tour plan into 3 phases. Initially, we will hold conferences and live performances in four historical cities of the country i.e. Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Lucknow.

As we move on to the next phases, we will ensure that the canvas of our mission enlarges to the level of cultural exchange with diverse cultures prevailing in different parts of India and abroad.  In the third phase, we will take our performers to some SAARC and Middle Eastern countries to showcase the rich cultural heritage of India and also to achieve better cultural exchange with those countries.

Read My Article : "WHAT IS URDU"

Friday 14 September 2012

Note on the recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India regarding media coverage of Court Proceedings

After the judgment of the Supreme Court in Sahara India Real Estate Corp. Ltd & Ors Vs. Securities Exchange Board of India & anr delivered on 11.9.2012 there have been several critical comments about the same. In my opinion it is a balanced judgment which I agree with.

Ordinarily there should be freedom for the media to report court proceedings, because it is through the media that the people get to know about the functioning of the courts.

In feudal society the king was supreme and the people were subordinate to him. However in a modern democracy this relationship is reversed, and now the people are supreme, and all authorities, whether legislative, executive or judicial are only servants of the people. Surely the master has a right to know how his servant functions. The media is an agency of the people through which people get to know how state authorities, including the Courts, are functioning. It logically follows that ordinarily there should be freedom for the media to report court proceedings.

However, no rule can be absolute or rigid. The duty of the court is to do justice, and while ordinarily there should be freedom to the media to report court proceedings, in exceptional circumstances where the Judge feels that injustice would be done to an accused or defendant in a trial if the media reports the court proceedings, then the court has always power to prevent such reporting so that justice may be done. In fact this was the law even before the aforesaid judgment of the Supreme Court because the court has always this power, because the Judge has to do justice and prevent prejudice to a party if caused by reporting court proceedings. The Judge has the power to control and regulate proceedings in his court so that justice is done. In fact in camera proceedings in exceptional cases are sometimes resorted to.

The Supreme Court has observed in its judgment that a postponement order should be passed only in cases in which there is a substantial risk to the fairness of the trial or for appropriate administration of justice. However, the Supreme Court added that the postponement order should be for a limited period, and only in appropriate cases. I do not see what reasonable objection can there be to this view.

No right can be absolute, and the right to freedom of speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. Hence, the view taken by the Supreme Court is a correct and balanced views, and in fact this was the law even before its clarification by the Supreme Court in the aforesaid judgment.

Monday 10 September 2012

Cartoonist's Arrest is Illegal

Aseem Trivedi did nothing illegal by drawing the cartoons and putting them on the net.

In a democracy many things are said, some truthful and others false. I often used to say in Court when I was a Judge that people can call me a fool or crook inside Court or outside but I will never take contempt of court proceedings, because either the allegation is true, in which case I deserve it, or it is false, in which case I will ignore it. These are occupational hazards, and politicians , like Judges, must learn to put up with them.

Cartoons are part of democracy and part of the freedom of the media guaranteed by Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. Hence arresting him was itself a crime called wrongful arrest and wrongful confinement under sections 341 and 342 of the Indian Penal Code, and those who arrested him should themselves be arrested and tried and given harsh punisment if convicted. It seems that some authorities in India are becoming increasingly intolerant, as in the case of arrest of a farmer by the Chief Minister of West Bengal only because in a public meeting he said that the Chief Minister had not kept her election promises.

In fact arresting a cartooniist or any other person who has not committed a crime is itself a crime  under the Indian Penal Code called wrongful arrest and wrongful confinement.

If the policemen who arrested him say that they were only carrying out the order of some superior authority (whether political or administrative) this is no defence, because an official should not obey an illegal order. For instance, if a policemen is told by a higher authority to commit a murder or burglary or rape, he should disobey this illegal order, otherwise he should be tried and if found guilty given harsh punishment.

In the Nuremberg Trials the Nazi war criminals took the plea that orders are orders, and that they were not guilty as they were only carrying out the order of their superior Hitler. This plea was rejected and the International Tribunal said that they should have dosobeyed such orders as they were illegal, and accordingly many of them were hanged.

The charge of sedition against Aseem is wholly unsustainable since in 1962 in the case of Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar (which can be seen online) the Indian Supreme Court held that it is only speech which incites to violence which is seditious. Merely criticizing the government or creating disaffection against it is not sedition. In fact to hold otherwise would completely subvert democracy, in which people have a right to criticize the government. Aseem's cartoons certainly did not incite to violence, though they may have severely criticized politicians.

Politicians and police authorities must learn to be tolerant and take criticism in their stride. In a democracy it is the people who are supreme, and all authorities, whether political or administrative, are only servants of the people. Surely the master has a right to criticize his servant if he thinks that the servant has done something wrong.

The behaviour of the policemen who arrested Aseem was wholly illegal and unacceptable, since India is a democracy with a Constitution having the Fundamental Rights of freedom of speech and liberty.
-Justice Katju

Sunday 9 September 2012

Clarification : 'Infinity' is not Right

In response to my article published in The Hindu some persons have said that I was not correct when I wrote that anything divided by zero is an indeterminate number, not infinity.

So let me prove what I said.

Suppose 1 divided by zero = x. Then x multiplied by 0 should be 1. But we know that anything multiplied by 0 becomes 0. It follows that it is impermissible to divide by 0.

Infinity is not a number at all. Infinity can be expressed thus :
Limit of 1 divided by x, x tending to 0, is infinity. This merely means that if we keep making x smaller and smaller the number keeps becoming bigger and bigger without any limit. That is all that infinity means. It is fallacious to regard it as a number.

Read the article (Click Here)

Monday 3 September 2012

Professor, teach thyself

Our tertiary education system does not serve the masses

 Photo: P.V. Sivakumar
I was at Jawaharlal Nehru University recently with some of the top senior academicians in Delhi, before dinner.

I was told that the budget of the University Grants Commission was Rs.41,000 crore in the Five Year plan and the annual budget of JNU was about Rs.150 crore.
In my usual blunt way I said, “How has this benefited the Indian masses? It seems that the huge funds being ploughed into higher education in India are for the benefit of foreign countries and to give you professors huge salaries and fine houses to live in rather than to benefit the Indian people.”
This sparked off a lively debate. Some of the professors tried to refute my statement, but I stuck to my guns.
I said that most of the money spent on education in India went to the institutes of higher education like the IITs and universities, and very little money was spent on primary and middle schools, particularly in rural areas, where the foundation of education was laid. There are very few facilities such as proper seats, electricity, books, classrooms, etc in these primary or middle schools, whereas the institutes of higher education are given huge funds and have very good facilities, state-of-the-art campuses, air-conditioning, etc. I then gave a few examples to prove what I said:
1. I once went to a village about 40 km from Allahabad (my native city) to meet a farmer friend of mine, with whom I had studied at Allahabad University.
At his home I met one of his sons who had passed class seven and promoted to class eight in his high school in the village. I asked him to bring his class 7 mathematics book and solve a few simple problems. He could not do so. I wondered how he had been promoted when he could not solve simple class 7 problems. I then solved those simple problems, and asked him to attempt the other problems in the lesson. He was obviously an intelligent boy, because having learnt how to solve the simple problems, he proceeded to solve the rest.
At this I asked him, “Did your teacher not teach you all this?” He replied, “Master Sahib thekedari karne lage hain, aur doosre master sahib classlene aate naheen hai” (the teacher has become a contractor, and the next teacher does not come to take classes”).
2. I went to a reputed intermediate college in Allahabad and was told that in a section in Class 11 there are 250 students. I was shocked. Under the rules there should not be more than 40 students in a class. What teaching can possibly be done in a class of 250 students? I also learnt that in some of the sections at Allahabad University there are over 300 students, and there is not even place for a student to sit.
In view of this, much of the real education takes place in private coaching institutes, or at the residence of teachers who make much more money there than in their institutions. As a result, these teachers evince little interest in teaching in their institutions, and a student who does not join the coaching (paying high fees) finds it difficult to pass.
3. In many of the staffrooms of our educational institutions, teachers, instead of discussing academic matters, often discuss petty politics, often of a casteist nature or matters pertaining to their service conditions. Senior professors often try to promote lecturers of their own caste, whether they have merit or not.
4. Teachers are often appointed not on merit but on extraneous considerations, like political connection, caste, etc. They are appointed on contract basis. In some States, “shikshamitra” who have been appointed on a salary of Rs.1,500 a month have no degree or teachers’ training qualification.
5. The level of intellect of many teachers is low, because many of them have not been appointed on merit but on extraneous considerations. To give an example, when I was a judge of Allahabad High Court I had a case relating to a service matter of a mathematics lecturer in a university in Uttar Pradesh. Since the teacher was present in court I asked him how much one divided by zero is equal to. He replied, “Infinity.” I told him that his answer was incorrect, and it was evident that he was not even fit to be a teacher in an intermediate college. I wondered how had he become a university lecturer (In mathematics it is impermissible to divide by zero. Hence anything divided by zero is known as an indeterminate number, not infinity).


I gave them many more such examples, and told the senior academicians at JNU that huge amounts of money of the Indian taxpayer is spent on the IITs and other institutes of higher education, but the graduates of these institutes usually take up jobs in foreign countries. This results in brain drain. Thus, while Indians pay taxes which go towards educating our bright students, the benefit of their education goes to foreign countries and not to the Indian people. These foreign countries benefit because higher education in their own countries is very expensive, so they have to pay only a fraction of that amount to get our bright young students.
I posed them another question: the test of every system is one simple question. Does it raise the standard of living of the masses or not? I said that the huge amount of money being spent on higher education in India is not raising the standard of living of the Indian masses because over 75 per cent of Indians live in dire poverty. There is massive unemployment, skyrocketing prices, huge problems of health care, housing, etc.
Apart from that, I asked them how many Nobel laureates have our universities and other institutes of higher education produced. Hardly any.
In many American universities one will find half a dozen Nobel laureates. Australia, which has a population of about 25 million, has 180 academicians who have an F.R.S. (Fellow of the Royal Society), while India, with a population of 1,200 million, has only about 20. So what are the achievements of our scientists and other intellectuals? It is only when they go to the United States or Canada or Europe that they achieve anything.
What is the quality of research work done by our academicians in institutes of higher learning? Unfortunately it is abysmally low and does not benefit the Indian people. Their publications are mostly poor, and done only to improve their CVs in order to get jobs.
The purpose of education is to help raise the standard of living of the masses. But in India it seems that its purpose is to raise the standard of living of a handful of people who get jobs as teachers, particularly in institutions of higher education.
I must say to the credit of the professors assembled there that they did not take any of my remarks personally. I told them that I had no intention to insult them but was only voicing my genuine grievance about the educational system in India, and the need to make it more beneficial to the masses.
At the end it was agreed that my views required serious debate which hopefully shall be held at JNU or elsewhere soon.
Published in The Hindu on 3rd September,2012.