‘Today one part of India considers English as its primary language -- it’s not an issue. What we have said is that Hindi remains in every department and it is the national language.’
‘This government wants this country to stand on its own and that’s why the people of this country gave us this huge victory.’
In the first part of this exclusive interview Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas with independent charge Dharmendra Pradhan, one of the Modi government's stars, told Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com why the government was forced to roll out ‘bitter medicine’ in the form of hikes in railway fares and some other commodities.
In the second and final part, he speaks about the controversy over the government’s use of Hindi in the social media and how the government is going ahead to execute its plans to honour the 60-month mandate it has been given.
Let’s talk about the controversy over Hindi. The home ministry says that Hindi should be used in social media. You’re Oriya-speaking. What is your take on this issue? How are you dealing in Hindi as everything in your ministry is in English -- the literature on the geopolitics of oil and gas is largely in English?
We have to come out of this mindset that English is the only medium. I can speak in English also. It is not that I don’t know English. I can interact in English, that is not an issue. Where are you from? You’re from India. We should respect our own language and English too. Today one part of India considers English as its primary language -- it’s not an issue. What we have said is that Hindi remains in every department and it is the national language.
This understanding that the international language is English is not correct. I don’t think so. All the oil producing countries, none of them speak English. Russia or any of the Arab countries do not speak English. So there is no need for this mindset that English is the only business language of oil and gas buyers and sellers. Yes it is an important language and we have to respect all languages.
India’s domestic language has strength. The language of the consumer has power as well! Some people consider it as a burden. It is not so. World-class companies in India communicate in the domestic segment to the lowest strata, are they doing that in English? No. They translate and speak what they want to. This is their outlook. I can speak, write English and give an interview in English, but whose country is this? When I’ll be travelling to southern part of the country I’ll communicate in English. Surely.
But, your government has just started and why is it taking up such big issues, right now?
See this is your view. It is not a big issue… you have to respect everybody’s sentiment. This is the decision of the last United Progressive Alliance government. The government many times works in continuity. Some media people have the habit of exaggerating certain issues. They have to do their work.
So this government will communicate in Hindi?
See we have to respect all languages of communication. The country’s national language is Hindi that does not mean we wish to force it on anyone. It also doesn’t mean that we have something against English.
If any Tamilian doesn’t know Hindi and if you can’t talk in Tamil then you will need English to connect with him.
I don’t think this should be an issue. See all the telephone companies have developed their software in all regional languages. Language can be an advantage.
You have been in office since one month. Have you faced any problem in terms of speaking or writing Hindi?
No. I speak Hindi and English. I have no problem.
Do you think that you can run this ministry using only Hindi?
See I don’t have either an English or a Hindi-speaking background. I am an Oriya. I love and feel proud of my language. That does not mean I should disrespect Hindi, English or any regional language.
Do you really think you can run this ministry by speaking only Hindi?
I don’t find any difficulty in that also. I will give you an example. When I went to Russia, which is an important part of the oil economy, I had a long productive discussion with the ministers. They talked in Russian and I talked in Hindi. We were successful in bringing to words our feelings and had a good conversation.
Our interpreters helped in English and Russian... We had no issues. And I believe that more than the sweetness of language, the sweetness of the heart is important.
Can Hindi help you run the entire ministry?
I gave you an example… if I can talk to other countries, I don’t need to be doubtful about any issue within my country.
On the balance, how do you feel about the new government, new work, new ministry?
My leadership has trusted me. It’s a huge responsibility for me. And the country has trusted the leadership, our PM. And within this setubandh of trust, I also perform my duties like the squirrel! This is my first priority.
The desires and expectations of this country, we work towards them as a servant, as the squirrel. God has given me this opportunity, my leadership, my people have given me this opportunity and I’m really thankful. And I understand this challenge. And with God’s grace, all the understanding and knowledge that I possess, according to India’s Constitution, I will work with all might and honesty.
If we look at this one month what are the 2-3 big things you found?
This government wants this country to stand on its own and that’s why the people of this country gave us this huge victory. This country has to be made self sufficient; to use the strength that this country possesses, the government has the right to do so.
The government has laid a great foundation for it through small steps. The country has given us a mandate of 60 months, but within these 26 days, the way that we are leading them towards self sufficiency, we have laid the foundation.
PM Narendra Modi had asked all ministries to make a hundred-day schedule. Have you made it and are you moving ahead on it?
We’re working on a 60-month mandate given to us. Rest are internal issues.
But the PM had said…
Did he say it to you?
We’re working on a 60-month mandate. Within the department there are short, medium and long term strategies.