VELLORE: Hindi is making a comeback on the milestones on the National Highways in Tamil Nadu, but this time at the expense of English. This is putting scores of travellers, truckers, medical tourists and even businesspersons from non-Hindi states at inconvenience, say stakeholders, seeking a reversal of the move.
On border districts - Vellore and Krishnagiri - the National Highway Authority of India has been quietly erasing English names from the milestones for the past few months, replacing it with Hindi script. This is against its three-language policy for road signage - vernacular of the particular State, Hindi and English.
For instance, milestones on NH 75 and NH 77, which pass through Vellore and Tiruvannamalai districts, now have names in Hindi and Tamil or Kannada. English names are no longer used there. The 533-km long NH 75 connects NH 73 from Bantval in Karnataka to NH 48 (Bengaluru-Chennai bypass road) at Vellore. The road that orginates in Hassan passes through Bengaluru and Kolar in Karnataka, Venkatagirikota in Andhra Pradesh, and Pernumbut, Gudiyatham and Katpadi in Tamil Nadu.
Since Friday, workers have been erasing English names on milestones on Chittoor-Vellore NH and replacing it with Hindi. Adding to the confusion is the rather shoddy translation of names. A case in point is the Hindi translation of Gudiyatham, which reads Kudhiyatham.
Similarly, the place names on milestones on NH 77, which connects Krishnagiri with Tindivanam through Tiruvannamalai and Gingee, have also been changed to to only Tamil and Hindi.
Traders and tourists at Vellore have termed this an unfriendly move for non-Tamils and non-Hindi speakers who frequent the town. Vellore, of late, has emerged as an important destination for medical care in the country. The data from reputed CMC Hospital show that it receives a whopping 54 lakh patients a year, of which about 35 per cent are from West Bengal, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. This apart, hospitals in Vellore receive about 400 patients from abroad, including Middle East countries.
“Milestones without place names in English will put medical tourists and foreigners to hardship. Students from non-Hindi speaking states will also be affected by this,” said sources from tourism department.
Joining the issue, the tannery industries in Vellore, which accounts for the highest number of leather companies in the country, sought three-language policy in signage, fearing it could inconvenience the scores of customers, who patronise the industry.
T Mohammed Mubeen, general secretary of Vaniyambadi Tanners Association said at least 100 to 150 businessmen from West Bengal, Punjab and other parts of India regularly visit Ranipet, Ambur, and Gudiyatham. “It is illogical to force people to learn Tamil or Hindi to travel on our National Highways,” he added.
When contacted, officials from NHAI refused to comment, saying it was a policy decision of the Centre. The NHAI maintains about 3,800 km road network throughout the State.