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Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Many culture and literary doyens of Odisha have expressed their apprehension that on account of the increasing aversion towards Odia medium schools among children in the State, the language is going to lose its relevance soon.

As per language experts, people who can afford the costs are sending their children to English medium schools that have mushroomed across the State. Apart from being taught in English language, most of the Odia children are learning Hindi as their second language in these schools. When these children grow up, there will be few among them who could read or write Odia.

“I can visualise a time when people in Odisha will be unable to correlate them with their mother tongue. A disaster is waiting for the State. With the language gone, the Odia identity will be lost. The way things are shaping up, Odia culture will be pushed into oblivion very soon,” said Dr. Benudhar Padhy, a retired Odia professor and an eminent litterateur.

The apprehensions can’t be ruled out completely as the number of students getting enrolled into English medium schools has already outnumbered the students getting admission into Odia medium schools in the State. The change in the trend is also reflecting in the government schools across Odisha as less and less number of students are now joining these schools.

“If the current trend continues, the number of students getting admission into Odia medium schools will shrink to a small minority in the next one or two decades,” said Padhy.

The Odisha government has formed Odisha Official Language Act in order to make Odia language mandatory in official communications to protect and promote the native language. However, many language crusaders feel that the Act is just an eyewash.

“The act is toothless as it is not being implemented in many government departments. No punitive action is taken against the violators,” said a linguist.

“Though Hindi and English are increasingly dominating all spheres at pan-India level, various states are taking serious steps to protect their native languages. But no such steps have been taken by the Odisha government so far. If the current trend continues, Odia language will be doomed in future,” he said.

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