Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill, 2024

The Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill, 2024 has been proposed in the Karnataka state legislature to further modify the 1994 Act and 2022 Amendment to strengthen promotion of the Kannada language across education and employment.
The key features include making Kannada mandatory for higher education and private sector jobs.

Background

The Kannada language is natively spoken by around 40 million people mainly in the South Indian state of Karnataka. To counter the dominance of English language, the Government of Karnataka enacted the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Act in 1994. This made Kannada a compulsory language for education and official correspondence within the state. The 2022 Amendment extended it to undergraduate college education and state government jobs. However, the dominance of English continued in higher education, IT and private companies. This threatened the usage of native Kannada among future generations despite over 5 decades of linguistic policy.

Key Provisions of 2024 Amendment Bill

  • Kannada in Higher Education

The Amendment Bill proposes to make Kannada a mandatory language for instruction as well as examination in both undergraduate and postgraduate education. Currently, most private colleges and universities in Karnataka offer programs only in English medium. This limits Kannada usage in higher research and academia.

  • Expanding Employment Domain

In addition to jobs in the state government, the 2024 Bill also includes requirements to know Kannada in order to gain employment in state PSUs, banks, private companies and multinationals operating within Karnataka. Critics have said earlier legislation overreached.

  • Incentivizing Kannada Adoption

Previous punitive measures alone could not expand Kannada into new domains. The 2024 Bill has provisions to give financial incentives, tax rebates and subsidies to organizations proactively propagating Kannada in their ecosystem through signboards, software, documents etc. This pilot approach has yielded positive results.

The bill also mandates 60% use of Kannada in signboards of businesses across the state. At present, the law requires use of Kannada in the upper-half portion of boards displaying the names of businesses without specifying the percentage.

Features of 2022 Amendment Bill

The 2022 bill made Kannada language education compulsory for students up to the undergraduate level across all schools and colleges in Karnataka. It made mandatory working knowledge of written and spoken Kannada for government jobs in state and Penalties for violations of Rs. 5000 to Rs. 1 lakh depending on severity.

Opposition to Amendment Bill

Past efforts to impose Kannada have hurt employment prospects of ethnic minorities and brought allegations of linguistic chauvinism. Private companies also oppose mandatory local language policy affecting businesses environment. The proposed incentives-based model aims to counter this criticism.


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