Devolution to States Should Be Bharatiya Approach to Development

 "Perhaps most importantly, the institution must adhere to the tenet that while incorporating positive influences from the world, no single model can be transplanted  from outside into the Indian scenario. We need to find our own strategy for growth.  The new institution has to zero in on what will work in and for India.   It will be a Bharatiya approach to development".

The above is an excerpt from the press note of NITI Aayog, the institution that replaces the Planning Commission. It is true that successful approaches to development and progressive economic policies cannot be replicated across the globe. A model that works for one county may not fit another. The social challenges, the economic challenges and priorities are vastly different. Policies should also consider various sociocultural traits, and should be designed such that they not only help achieve development in the given cultural setting but also minimize any conflicts between development models and the cultural complexion.

Given this, it is obvious that India is different in itself and development models and policies that work in, let us say, Italy, or Germany, surely cannot be replicated here. Countries can learn from the accumulated experience of others and frame models and policies that suit their own characteristics. But will a county-wide policy work for India?

India has always tried to hold power at its Centre and has devolved very less to the states. The number of subjects that the states have jurisdiction over have been going down and the number that have moved to the Concurrent and the Union lists have increased. Whether it is finance and banking, railways, insurance, or aviation, policies are defined by the Union. This, needless to say, has resulted in approaches, often misaligned with local needs and priorities. It is being said that the NITI Aayog is setup with the objective of involving states in economic-policy making, in the name of ‘Co-operative Federalism’, but unless the states have enough autonomy to plan and device their own policies and schemes, the result will be the delivery of progress (from the Union) lacking any synchronization with local development needs.

Just the way Italy and Germany are different, Kerala and Haryana, for example, are quite different. Beti Bachao Abhiyan may be very relevant to Haryana, while it makes very little sense to Kerala. The Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, remarked that both Beti Bachao Abhiyan and Jan Dhan Yojana are irrelevant to Kerala as the state had already achieved high standards in the areas that these two schemes are devised to address.

Kerala, historically, has had a healthy sex ratio. In fact, its sex ratio went up from 1058 females to 1000 males in 2001 to 1084 females to 1000 males in 2011. Though Haryana bettered from 861 in 2001 to 877 in 2011 the state’s numbers are definitely worrying. The state Government of Haryana would be best placed to understand the true nature and the intensity of the issue, and address it accordingly. The design of the program, the kind of campaigns required to popularize and implement it, the challenges and hurdles, and the required funds are all better known to the state than to the Union. So, it is far better to leave the design and implementation of such programs to the states than have the Union roll out projects of such scale uniformly across the country that are often irrelevant to many regions and states.

Hence, in different aspects of development like education, health care and other human development indices, infrastructure, industries and entrepreneurship, agriculture, sociocultural issues and various other parameters, each state is unique in itself. A top-down approach to policy-making can be regressive, and may often work against the objectives of organized development. There can be no single ‘Bharatiya’ approach to development much like there can be no one model for the whole world. The Union should play the role of a facilitator to the states, rather than getting further into the centralizing business in an already centralized scheme of things if India should aspire for a healthy, sustainable, and all-round development.

(Image source: thehindubusinessline)

Language Reforms Are Fundamental to Development and Equality

There are two different narratives that are widely heard in India nowadays. One is 'development' and the other is 'equity and equality'. There are schools of thought that favor one over the other. Furthermore, school of thought that vouches for 'development' accuses the other school of trying to achieve 'equity and equality' at the expense of 'development'. The accusations are vice versa too.
These two narratives have been built for so long, that there are political parties that have taken up these narratives as election issues. Even in the intelligentsia, these two schools are in existence.

Education precedes equity as well as development
Development, which involves industrialization and building prosperity, is not achievable without skilled human resource. Whether large scale manufacturing industries or building cutting edge technology, it is the people who build them. Education is the only way a society can build skilled human resource, unless the society wishes to import skilled workers. 

Consider the narrative of 'equity and equality', education is the only means through which an equitable society can be built. It is through education that all classes of people can be uplifted, and enabled. No matter what school of thought one belongs to, education (both primary as well as higher) is fundamental to accomplish what the school envisions.

Role of language in education
Every educationist in the world would unanimously agree that education is best imparted in one's mother-tongue. Both primary education and higher education, if available in one's mother-tongue, would only do good to the society. Higher education in people's language is important to ensure smooth transition from secondary education. Across the developed world, availability of higher education in people's language has ensured higher participation in terms of number of people enrolling. 

If we as a society, fail to build higher education institutes that provide education in people's language, we can never give raise to vast number of skilled workforce that development activities demand. If we as a society, continue to work with the current English-only elite system, majority of people will remain out of higher education institutes. With such an elite system, where only those who could cross the gate called English have access to higher education, building an equitable society will remain a distant dream.

In India, the very absence of such higher education institutes, speaks volumes about the lack of vision displayed by these two major schools of thought. Can you name one famous higher education institute in India that is known to provide world-class education in people's language? Be it any Indian language.

It is a tough job
Yes, building such institutes is a tough job. It demands a lot of time and effort. But, if India aspires to be a developed nation, this tough job has to be taken up. By not building higher education institutes in people's language, no nation has been able to develop ever. Even if India aspires to be an equitable nation, this tough job has to be taken up. With the current elite-system, most of the benefits of progress will remain limited to elite.

Enabling the languages
Now that we have understood the importance of education in people's language, a question might arise "isn't it enough if we translate the higher education textbooks to Indian languages?".
The answer is, "No, it is not that simple". For, the Indian languages lack corpus of words. Words that can explain the inclusive concepts discussed in higher studies. Corpus of words for any language cannot be built by simply borrowing the words from another language. Words have to be built to suit the nativity of that language, only then the words will serve the purpose of carrying and conveying the meaning to fellow speakers. 

Such corpus building tasks have been taken up by many language groups across the world. Corpus building is an important piece of language planning exercise, and also is one of the continuous tasks as the human ventures throw out new things and concepts every passing day. For further reading on language planning, please refer this book.

Lack of corpus in any language leads to absence of higher education in that particular language. Absence of higher education in any language, drastically slows down the process of corpus building. Hence, this sounds like a chicken and egg problem. To solve this problem, concerted efforts are needed. Corpus needs to be built for every Indian language, and it can only be built by the speakers of these languages.

Efforts in Kannada
Author is part of one such effort in Kannada. A web portal ( wherein science and technology concepts are explained by using the newly coined Kannada root words. Many learned Kannadigas with expertise in fields of medicine, anatomy, automobile industry, software technology, physics and etc, are penning down their knowledge in Kannada. Even the much debated Kannada script reforms have been implemented in this portal. Script reforms is a way to make learning, reading and writing easier for the language speakers. For each language, room for script reforms is unique. Script reforms have already been implemented in several countries, South Korea for example, only to reap benefits.

For the past two years that honalu has been in existence, 125 people have contributed their articles, most of which are related to science. All the writers have acquired the knowledge through English. And, they are bringing the knowledge to their mother tongue Kannada. Not by mere translation and borrowing of words, but by coining new words that suit Kannada nativity. It is an experiment the elite are working on, that will eventually benefit the whole Kannadiga society. You might ask, "how can a web portal help the whole Kannadiga society?". Well, to solve the chicken and egg problem, we cannot just keep sitting on the problem, we need a start. Once the society as a whole, the intelligentsia, the political class, et al understand the importance of language reforms, much bigger attempts will be made. These efforts are fundamental to build what the two popular schools of thought aim to achieve.

(Image source:

Languages and their Origins

The English word ‘attic’ has its roots in the Kannada word ‘aṭṭa’ (ಅಟ್ಟ). Even to this day, the English word has not changed much in terms of meaning and also how it sounds! Similarly, cut comes from Kannada ‘kaḍi’, make from ‘māḍu, kill from ‘kollu’, all from ‘ella’ and nation from ‘nāḍu’. This way, I can claim that all of English words have their roots in Kannada. And why should I limit to English? I can claim Kannada origin of all words of the entire family of Indo-European languages, including Sanskrit. If this sounds like a fantasy, wait! Let me throw in some bits that are well accepted by modern linguists as well. The words like ‘rice’ and ‘wootz’ have Kannada (or Dravidian) roots. Let me list a few more words like these and my argument starts sounding more credible.

Now that I am done with words, let me get to grammar. This will make my argument complete. That not just the words of the English language but the language itself (and all Indo-European languages) originated from Kannada. Let me start with a point I noted on verbs. In Kannada, verbs can function as adjectives when used with a noun. For example, consider the words ījukoḷa (ಈಜುಕೊಳ, swimming pool), and bīsugaaḷi (ಬೀಸುಗಾಳಿ, blowing wind). Doesn’t the word ‘swimming pool’ follow a very similar grammatical rule (verb or a verb form acting as an adjective)? In the case of English, the verb ‘swim’ has only been given a simplified form, ‘swimming’!

Many people who claim Sanskrit is the root of all of Indian languages (and even all of the world’s languages), often resort to such arguments. Of late, I have come across quite a few online articles, and social media posts with bizarre claims regarding Sanskrit’s relation with other Indian languages, especially Kannada. Some directly accord the status of motherhood to Sanskrit, and a few others claim a very high degree of Sanskrit influence on word and syntactic structures. Though the topic is very much linguistic in nature, people interweave various other subjects like education, culture, literature and even national integration into it, making it appear far more complicated than what it really is. In this article I will strictly stick to linguistics, and show why arguments made in favor of Sanskrit in this regard are mostly baseless. I will try to limit references to other topics, as each of these is quite complex in itself and discussing all of them together can become quite confusing. 

Let me begin with the often made claim that the grammatical structure of south Indian languages, like Kannada and Telugu, is inherited from Sanskrit. To make such a claim you need to show that these three languages were one single language at some point in the past and then they branched off, with the grammar of each branch undergoing different progressive changes, ultimately resulting in what they are today. But there is no evidence to show that the grammatical structures of Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit were once the same and to explain their current grammatical structures as a result of evolution of the original structure into three different branches, each gradually undergoing distinct changes over time.

Is presence of similar case systems (vibhakti) in two languages good enough evidence to show that they are somehow related? Not really. Hungarian, a language of Uralic family, for example, has seven cases, one less than what Sanskrit has. Incidentally, like Kannada, it does not possess the ablative case, the panchama vibhakti. But that does not prove that the case system itself went to Hungarian from Sanskrit or was inherited from it, and that the panchama vibhakti was somehow later lost. Many Indo-European languages including ancient Latin and Greek too possess a case system. This is the result of their shared ancestry and not proof that they have Sanskrit roots. English, which as of today follows word order to indicate case, also once had a case system!

Now, let us take a closer look at the case system of Sanskrit and Kannada. Suffixes of each case in Kannada are not bound to the grammatical number or vachana of the word. Case suffix and number suffix are independent in Kannada. In Sanskrit, case suffixes vary with grammatical number of the word. For example, the second case (dvitīya vibhakti) suffix of the word ‘ಹುಡುಗ’ (‘huḍuga’, boy) is always ‘ಅನ್ನು’ (annu) regardless of whether the word appears in singular form (ಹುಡುಗನನ್ನು) or plural (ಹುಡುಗರನ್ನು). But in the case of Sanskrit, the dvitīya vibhakti suffix of the word ‘बालक’ (also meaning boy) varies depending on the word’s grammatical number. बालकम् is singular, बालकौ is dual, and बालकान्  is plural. Infact, Sanskrit has one suffix for each case and number combination, and both cannot be represented independently.  Also note that Kannada has only two categories of the grammatical number (singular and plural), Sanskrit has three (singular, dual, and plural). Clearly, case and number systems of both Kannada and Sanskrit are quite distinct.

Many, however, may claim that the dual grammatical number (dwivachana) has been lost from Kannada, but there is no proof to show that it ever existed and was later lost. 

Some new Kannada grammars still retain the panchama vibhakti. But does that mean it existed in Kannada in the past and was later lost? No. Early Kannada grammarians, including Keshi Raja, who wrote the ‘Shabdamani Darpana’, were of the opinion that Kannada had its roots in Sanskrit and that the grammatical structures of both languages were similar. So, they simply tried to adapt Panini’s rules into Kannada, and that explains why the panchama vibhakti sneaked into Kannada grammars. Blind adherence ensures it is retained to this date. Analysis of available old Kannada texts and classics that were written 9th century onwards, and even all the stone inscriptions that go back to the 5th century AD show no signs of the existence of panchama vibhakti in Kannada at any point in history.

Coming to Sandhis, I noticed a couple of examples to show how Kannada Sandhis are similar to Sanskrit Sandhis. Again, these look like an attempt to find some similarity somewhere and claim all of it came from Sanskrit. The Kannada example, 

ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ + ಇರ್ದಂ = ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿರ್ದಂ (maneyalli + irdam = maneyallirdam)

cannot be compared with any Sandhi of Sanskrit. In the above example, two similar short vowels (ಇ, i) join together resulting in the loss of one of them. But in Sanskrit, when two similar short vowels join together the resultant is a long vowel of the same kind. For example, 

रवि + इन्द्र = रवीन्द्र (ravi + indra = ravīndra)

Similarly, the comparisons of Kannada’s Agama and Adesha Sandhis with various other Sanskrit Sandhis are incorrect and baseless. Take the comparison between वागीश and ತಲೆಗೆಟ್ಟು. There is definitely, a replacement of one letter by another in both these Sandhi words. But the rules are completely different. In the former it is an unvoiced consonant combining with a vowel, and becoming the corresponding voiced consonant in the first word. No such Sandhi rule or tendency exists in Kannada. In the latter Kannada word, such a replacement happens in the second word, and it no way conforms to the Jashtva Sandhi rules, as defined in Sanskrit grammar. 

In a nutshell, Kannada Sandhis follow a completely different set of rules, and are very much different from those of Sanskrit. While Sanskrit Sandhis can be described using a set of strict rules, Kannada Sandhis can only be explained as tendencies, with lots of variations and exceptions – a symptom of a living, evolving language.

Like the Sandhis, there are fundamental differences between the Samasas (word compounds) of Kannada and Sanskrit. Some linguists even disagree the Sanskrit-like classification of Kannada Samasas, based on, which of the words in the compound is primary. I will not get into such a fundamental question here but let me give a couple of examples to show how the classification is quite unsatisfactory. Some people have claimed that Amshi Samasa of Kannada and Avyayibahava Samasa of Sanskrit are identical. As per the definition of Avyayibhava, an indeclinable (that cannot be inflected, an avyaya) word, combines with another word to form a compound that itself is indeclinable (avyaya). Now, have a look at the examples that many Kannada grammarians give for Amshi Samasa: ಮುಂಗೈ, ಮುಂದಲೆ, ಮುಂಗಾಲು etc. Clearly these are not avyayas or indeclinables. They are inflectable words and hence fall under the definition of Bahuvrihi Samasa, at best. Such ambiguities and confusions have arisen because of attempts to fit-in Sanskrit grammar into Kannada. In this case the ambiguity was so obvious that the suggested Kannada compounds simply did not fit the definition of Avyayibhava and hence were later given another name, Amshi, by Kannada grammarians. That has not solved the issue though!

Word structures of both Kannada and Sanskrit too are quite dissimilar. But there are considerable differences between Sanskrit and Kannada in terms of categorization of words, and how such words are used in sentences. This is again a very involved topic, and I will resist going into the details, as it cannot fit the scope of the current article.

When Kannada literature blossomed it was, without a speck of doubt, influenced by Sanskrit and Prakrit. The Sanskrit alphabet was directly copied for Kannada, with only small modifications. It is also true that later Kannada poets and authors have borrowed Sanskrit vocabulary and have used them in their writings. A fraction of such words have trickled down to speech as well. But that cannot be evidence to show that Kannada has Sanskrit roots or that it has deviated largely from its native traits and acquired Sanskrit-like characteristics. 

Just because some words or grammatical segments of Kannada (and other languages like Telugu) look similar to those of Sanskrit, it does not mean they have their roots in Sanskrit. If you argue in those lines, argument can be made in favour any language as the ‘mother of all languages’. This is exactly what I pointed out at the start of this article. Natural languages evolve over time, and it is only by tracing back changes, in a scientific way, several hundreds and even thousands of years into the past, it becomes possible to determine which languages are genetically related and organize them into language families. Linguists have long established that languages spoken in India belong to four different language families, Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic. Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Aryan group, which itself is a branch of the Indo-European family. Languages of this family, including Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, etc evolved from a proto Indo-European language and hence Sanskrit cannot be considered as the root of even many of the languages in its own family. Arguing that it is the mother of languages of unrelated families is too far-fetched.

(Picture source: Wikimedia)

Karnatique is back with a bang!

On Jan 17, 2008, I began Karnatique as the English blog of Banavasi Balaga, a think-tank dedicated to all matters Kannada, Kannadiga and Karnataka. I wrote nearly all the blog posts from day one to Sep 12, 2013. It was never intended to be my personal blog. I gave out several requests for others to join in, but somehow it never really became a multi-author blog. For this and other reasons (such as writing my book, The Pyramid of Corruption), I had to place Karnatique in hibernation on Sep 12, 2013.

Okay, here's the great news! Day before yesterday, i.e., on April 6, 2015 Priyank Kattalagiri and Sandeep Kambi agreed to revive the blog and continue Karnatique's mission of bringing quality English content from the Kannadiga viewpoint.

So, as they say, we're back in business!