“It has been seen that Indian aircrafts do not carry Hindi newspapers and magazines or carry them in limited numbers. This goes against the official language policy of the Indian union,“ Lalit Gupta, joint director general, DGCA, said in a letter to airlines. The letter, reviewed by ET, was printed in Hindi. “Let it be kindly ensured that aircraft carry equal numbers of Hindi and English newspapers.“
The move appears to go against efforts by airlines to reduce costs and save fuel, including by carrying fewer items on board their aircraft. National carrier Air India’s employees have suggested that fewer copies of the airline’s inflight magazine should be placed in aircraft to reduce weight.
“This advisory has no basis at all. DGCA is meant to be a safety regulator. This had nothing at all to do with safety. In flights, few read Hindi papers and it will add cost and weight. Besides, in many parts of the country, Hindi is not read or spoken at all. This is like the EU requiring German newspapers on all EU flights,“ said a senior executive of an airline who did not want to be identified.
“This is an absolutely ridiculous, pointless move,“ said Mark Martin, owner of Dubai-based aviation advisory firm Martin Consulting. “The airlines might as well carry reading material in all 300 languages spoken in India, at which point there would be no room for passengers.“
Regional language champions condemned the regulator’s move.
“The civil aviation ministry’s directive is a continuation of the forceful imposition of Hindi and we must ask: What about representation to other languages on flights?“ said SG Siddaramaiah, chairman of the Kannada Development Authority, which recently opposed signboards in Hindi at Bengaluru’s metro stations.
Earlier this month, Air India decided to stop serving non-vegetarian meals to its economy class passengers on domestic flights, triggering speculation that the move was linked to the ideology of religious nationalism promoted by the government. Air India said the decision was solely to cut costs.
“These antics are actually nothing new,“ said Martin, referring to the DGCA directive. “Remember Syed Shahnawaz Hussain (civil aviation minister in the previous BJP-led coalition government in 1998-2004) saying there would be Ayurvedic massages on board Air India flights?“
(Bharath Joshi contributed to this story.)
The Hindutva “Hindu-Hindi-India” agenda while anti-democratic, against national rights and religious rights, sometimes provides such comic relief when a ‘respected’ business pink paper like Economic Time has to cry foul of language imposition.
But the effects of Hindutva agenda on the peoples of India are truly tragic.