Fifty years earlier, RK Laxman’s cartoon made us smile. Today, the status remains as bad as 50 years ago. Today, it is no longer a smiling matter - it is tragic.
80% of India’s population
The Indian education excludes a vast majority of Indian from higher education as Indian higher system is predominantly in English. This puts a premium on English - and discounts Indian languages in the educational sweepstakes. The disadvantaged students who have studied in Indian languages ensure that their children get the 'advantage' of English education.The negative effect this on Indian self esteem is not even a point of discussion here.
The principle of exclusion (a colonial idea), is a dominant marker of the entire Indian education system - rather than inclusion. British (and before that, Islamic rulers’) colonial-imperial practices supported foreign languages on the backs of the Indian taxpayers’ contribution - and actively worked on destruction of local cultures.
For instance, in the erstwhile State Of Hyderabad (equal to about 10%-12% of modern India), ruled by the Nizam, a large non-British kingdom, 2000 year old local languages like Telugu and Marathi were considered uncouth and barbaric languages - compared to a 700 year old language like Urdu, which was supported by the State. Paeans in praise Urdu can be heard even today - much like the 'emergence of Hinglish' is being celebrated in contemporary India.
Thus anyone without the knowledge of Urdu was excluded from the system of governance, administration and interaction with public services and utilities. So it is now in India, with English.
Access Control and opportunity loss
How does this hinder India. India loses every year about 200,000 highly educated people to the West. These 200,000 people have been educated at subsidized Indian Universities at a considerable cost to the poor Indian taxpayer. What return does the tax payer get from this? Negative returns.
Something's gotta give
The combined GDP of the English speaking world is 14.1 trillion (2003 figures) - of which the US contributions is more than 71%. By a similar comparison, the next largest bloc of multi-nation, same-language speakers is the Spanish whose combined GDP is US$ 3.20 trillion. The French speaking bloc comes a poor third at US$2.20 trillion. The English speaking bloc, in spite of their temporary dominance, is still worried about the French attempts to keep its Francophone flock safe. It is but a matter of time that the US contribution will decrease - and hence, trade denominated importance of English will decrease.
The decline of the (Greco-Roman) Byzantine Empire, was similar. After the split of the Eastern Roman Empire from the Western, over the next 200-400 years, Greek language became the official language of the Byzantine Empire. Eastern Europe followed the lead of the Byzantine Empire and used Greek extensively - at a cost to their own language. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Europe lagged Western Europe.
The cost of switching from English
Assuming that a 100,000 essential books need to translated into local languages, at a cost of say Rs.100,000 per book, it still amounts to Rs.1000 crores. Is that a large sum of money for modern India. Hardly.
What is the loss to India? How much does this reduce India’s growth rate by? Hard numbers to quantify - but definitely big numbers.
So, why does contemporary India persist with this policy.
Because all the high and mighty, finally want their children to ‘escape to the West’, with a good education from India - at the cost of India’s poor. This vested interest makes this policy go around.