The wait for classical tag to Odia language seems to be getting longer.
This despite the fact that Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch had assured in July that the matter would be placed before the Cabinet within August and the classical language status for Odia was only a matter of time.
Four months have passed since then, but the matter is yet to be taken up. The Committee of Linguistic Experts of Sahitya Akademi, appointed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, had in July recommended classical status to Odia.
Rajya Sabha member Ramachandra Khuntia raised the issue in Parliament last year. He had also submitted a report to the Culture Ministry. The second report by the State Government, under the guidance of noted linguist Debi Prasanna Pattanayak, was to supplement Khuntia’s claim.
Sources said it was only recently that Culture Ministry placed the committee’s recommendation before the Union Cabinet for approval. Pattanayak, also the founder-director of Mysore-based Central Institute of Indian Languages, said while the Cabinet took up other issues, the report on classical tag has been put aside.
As per the procedure, the expert committee of linguists and litterateurs of Odisha, who were involved in preparing the report on eligibility of the language for classical tag, submitted it to the Culture Ministry which forwarded it to all other ministries for their consent. “After receiving consent from them, the report was sent to Union Cabinet a few days back. We have been told that the report is with Union Cabinet Secretary now and it may be taken up in the next meeting,” Pattanayak said.
On the other hand, members of the expert committee said the Odisha Government should pursue the matter with the Culture Ministry for the final approval. “With so much happening at the political front both at the State and Centre, it seems that the State Government has forgotten the classical status demand for our language,” said a member, requesting anonymity.
Securing classical language status for Odia has been high on the agenda of successive governments and socio-cultural organisations in Odisha. In fact, the State has been making the demand ever since Tamil was recognised as a classical language in 2004.
Apart from the symbolic value attached to it, securing classical language tag will ensure opportunities for scholars to undertake widespread research on the origin and history of Odia language with an effort to fill in gaps and missing links.
Once approved, Odia will join the exclusive club of Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Sanskrit and Tamil which have already been accorded classical status.