Amendment ruins the Official Language Act, CM moved for fresh Amendment

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In the matter of governance of Orissa in Oriya, here is my mail to Chief Minister of Orissa demanding repeal of Odisha Official Language (Amendment) Act, 2018 or re-amendment of the Act to remove the defects :

 

To

The Hon’ble Chief Minister, Orissa,

Bhubaneswar.

Sub: Orissa Official Language Act violated through Amendment, 2018 : Request for re-amendment to do away with the defects and for action against the Officer(s) responsible for rendering even the Hon’ble Chief Minister inconsequential  

Ref: Cabinet Resolution Dated 14.3.2018 read with the CMO letter No. 773/CM dt.19.5.2017 and Resolution No.18715/G.A. dt.31.7.2015

Hon’ble Sir,

With a heavy heart, I am writing you to say that, your noble intention to remove all defects from the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954 in order to make it flawlessly functional has been derailed by mischievous brains in bureaucracy and consequently, its amendment passed by the Assembly and assented to by the Governor, has become a more notorious instrument to destroy the original purpose of the Act , while rendering you absolutely inconsequential in the matter of the Resolution of the Cabinet you had presided over on March 14, 2018.

In looking back to the chain of events, I may state that, against the backdrop of ‘Fast onto Death’ by famous language activist Gajanan Mishra in July 2015, the new phase of official action on working of the Official Language Act commenced with creation of a Ministerial Committee by you under the Resolution referred to above, to find out how the Act could be implemented.

You were kind enough to nominate me as a member to the said Committee and in that capacity, I had conducted a thorough research into why the Act, being de jure in force since 1954, was de facto defunct and found out the following defects:

  1. The Government was not empowered in the Act to frame Rules to implement the Act; and
  2. There was no provision of punishment against contravention of the Act.

Accordingly, I had given my advice on 3.9.2015 with draft outlines of two legislation – one, for empowering the Government to frame the Rules and the other, for provision of punishment against nonuse of Oriya as official language.

For the first time the Government could know the above two inherent defects in the Act from my communication and you were kind enough to inform the Assembly on 14.12.2015 that necessary amendment of the Act was on the anvil.

From the notes in the concerned file it transpires that, the then officer-in-charge of the aforesaid Ministerial Committee Sri G.V.V.Sharma had objected to the proposal for punishment, and the file was then thus strangulated that, the Committee went into oblivion.

There was no other way for us than starting a movement in the name of Bhasha Andolan and commencing a campaign known as Black-Flag-Campaign for propounding the cause.

After 39 days of this campaign, on 21.5.2016, you were kind enough to get apprised of the serious situation and appreciating the extraordinary urgency the campaign had generated for official action, you promulgated an Ordinance of Amendment to the Act that implemented my advice and empowered the Government to frame Rules to drive the Act ahead. We had postponed the Black-Flag-Campaign till August 15, 2016, as, to our comprehension, which official indication to the Press had generated, all obstacles to implementation of the Act were to have been removed by then.

Bureaucracy foiled your noble attempt by producing a stillborn set of Rules that was so ineffectual and ill-conceived that, even the Government did not prefer to apprise the Assembly of it, when the Ordinance was laid as a Bill.

As our Black Flag Campaign continued, you were kind enough to discuss the matter with us vide the CMO communication dated 19.5.2017 under reference. We appraised you of the lacunae in the Law and gave you a fresh memorandum detailing why and how the amendment, 2016 should be further amended. A draft of the proposed amendment was submitted to you on that occasion.

After lapse of a period of six months, you held a Cabinet meeting at Puri on 26.12.2017 that almost agreed with our demand and decided to provide for suitable punishment to whosoever employee and Department fail to impart service in Oriya Language. We objected to that in view of the fact that: (1) there was an attempt to reduce the scope of the Act by shrewd coinage of words like “extensive use”, (2) Departments being run with people’s money, the contemplated punishment to ‘Department’ would lead to punishing the people for offences of the employees. And, the Black-Flag Campaign continued.

The State Cabinet met again under your Presidentship on 14.3.2018. It superseded the defective Resolution dated 26.12.2017 on the Act and almost entirely agreeing to our demand, it made it clear that for nonworking in Oriya, only the erring employee and official will be punished, not the Department. In complete acceptance of our argument it resolved, “as there is no provision for imposing penalty against the Officers and employees who are violating the provisions of the notifications under the Act, Government have decided to bring the amendment immediately providing penalties for such erring Officers and employees…so that they will implement the provisions of the notification in its letter and spirit” (Para 2 and 3 of the Press Note of the GA & PG Department, dated 14.3.2018).

But, Sir, your above noble decision has been rendered inconsequential in the amendment drafted by bureaucracy and adopted by the Assembly, as detailed below:

Firstly, the Statement of Object and Reasons of the Amendment do not carry the Reasons spelt out in the above quoted resolution of the Cabinet meeting presided over by you on 14.3.2018. It is based on the superseded resolution of 26.12.2017, completely suppressing the resolution dated 14.3.2018.

Secondly, while illegally using the superseded resolution dated 26. 12.2017, the officer concerned has also tampered with the said resolution. When, even that Resolution had laid down that for non-use of Oriya the Department AND the employees will be suitably punished, the amendment , claiming to have been based on that resolution, provides for punishment to employees OR Department, which is blatantly unauthorized and illegal.

Thirdly, the scope of the Act originally covering the whole of Orissa and all and every Office in the State of Orissa, the amendment has reduced this scope to “extensive use of Oriya Language”, which clearly means that the Act will not be used in whole of Orissa and in all and every official purpose in the State. No amendment can kill the basic purpose of the Act, as this particular amendment has been worded to do. 

Thus Sir, your intention to amend the Act to make it flawless for implementation of the Act “in its letter and spirit” has been brutally done away with by the mandarins while drafting the amendment.

These gross mistakes were overlooked by the Minister Mr. Arukh who moved the Bill in your absence and who just read out the reply to the debate as obviously prepared by the scheming mandarin that had drafted the amendment with a deliberate design against the people of Orissa.

On behalf of Bhasha Andolan, which has been spearheading the movement for inviolable implementation of the Act, I had brought these defects to the notice of the Governor with a request for returning the Bill for reconsideration of the Assembly to make the Law flawless. But, the anti-Oriya mentality of the bureaucracy is such that, the said memorandum was not put up properly before the Governor.

With these words, Sir, I request you on behalf of Bhasha Andolan and the people of Orissa, to please review the entire matter and take suitable and exemplary action against the Secretary concerned, who has rendered the Chief Minister of the State so absolutely inconsequential in matter of amendment of the Act as per Resolution of the Cabinet on 14.3.2018;

And, to please ensure that the Amendment, 2018 is put afresh before the Assembly in its coming session for amendment thereon or for fresh amendment of the Act to do away with the defects enumerated and detailed supra.

With this hope and deep regards,

Yours,

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak,

Chairman,

Bhasha Andolan, Orissa.

28.6.2018

Bhubaneswar.

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