Pradeep Pattanayak

Utkal Dibasa, the foundation day of Odisha State, is being observed with much fanfare by Odias staying in and outside the State. On this day in 1936, Odisha, then Known as Orissa, became a separate State, on linguistic basis.

However, when it comes to our respect and love for our language, it is always left a lot to be desired. A case in point is the order to put up signboards in Odia language across the State.

There is a government directive in place making it mandatory for the shops and business establishments to put up signboards in Odia language. Yet, English continues to be the lingua franca.

In March 2018, the Odisha government had decided to make it mandatory for all shops and business establishments and State and Central government offices to use nameplates and signboards in Odia. 

On May 1, 2018, the Odisha Assembly passed the Odisha Shops and Commercial Establishments (Amendment) Bill.

Since then, starting from the State government to district administrations have been issuing directives and official circulars from time to time, asking the shops and business establishments to write their signboards prominently in Odia- the State’s official language. 

For example, then Khordha district Collector Sanat Mohanty had said at a preparatory meeting for Utkal Divas in 2021 that they had decided to make Odia language mandatory on signboards of shops, business establishments and government offices across the district. 

He had also said that violators would be taken to task as per the law. But the order seems to have confined to pen and paper only and the violators are still flouting the order with impunity.

Expressing his disappointment, president of Bhasha Andolan, Pradyumna Satapathy said the Odisha Shops and Commercial Establishments Act has teeth, but they are only for showing, not for biting.

“People are wearing helmets not because of fearing accidents but because of fearing action. Similarly, if the violators are taken to task, it can make a huge difference and something can be achieved.”

Echoing the same, State coordinator, Pujyapuja Sanskruti Suraksha Abhijan, Narayan Chandra Ojha said, “It is meaningless to issue orders and, at the same time, be lenient with the violators. Once, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation took initiative to implement the government’s order for the mandatory use of Odia language on signboards. But with the passage of time, things were found on the back burner.”

“In other States like Tamil Nadu, the businessmen use their mother language on their signboards prominently. But the case is different in Odisha. Here, instead of using Odia language, they are using English. In my opinion, without strict implementation and punishment, the set goal can’t be achieved,” added Ojha.