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ICAI chief’s Hindi push enrages chartered accountants in Tamil Nadu

In a message, ICAI President Nihar N Jambusaria had exhorted members of India’s apex body for CAs to promote Hindi and adopt it in their everyday work. That message has not gone down well with auditors based in Tamil Nadu.

October 25, 2021 / 05:02 PM IST

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) finds itself in a spot. Not because of accounting principles or financial reporting standards, but because of an exhortation by its grand poobah to adopt Hindi.

In a signed message published in the October issue of The Chartered Accountant journal, ICAI President Nihar N Jambusaria said that the members of India’s apex body for chartered accountants should adopt Hindi in their work and interactions with other stakeholders. He also urged them to promote Hindi, which he said was the rajbhasha (official language)

“Realising the power of our mother tongue Hindi, ICAI is trying to incorporate more use of Hindi into its work culture. As part of the professional behaviour (sic), all the employees took the Rajbhasha Pledge to use and promote Hindi in our lives on this day (referring to Hindi Diwas, on September 14). Members are also encouraged to adopt Hindi language in their work and interactions with other stakeholders,” Jambasuria wrote in his message.

The issue has since caught the attention of social media.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) was set up in 1949 under an Act of Parliament. It has over three lakh members, many of whom are from non-Hindi-speaking parts of India.

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Reactions from the profession

Coming down hard on the attempt to promote Hindi, V Ranganathan, former director of E&Y, described it as a “very unfortunate fall of the profession”.

According to K. Ravishankar, a practising chartered accountant, the move is an ill-conceived one, and will be impractical in the South. “At this point in time, such a thing is entirely avoidable. As it is, CA exams are held in English and Hindi. Such a move will (upset people from non-Hindi regions and) trigger demand for conducting exams in other regional languages,” he said.

“This atrocious and controversial language policy is against the concept of diversity in unity. ICAI, being a reputed nationally recognised professional body, should be above political, linguistic and racial tendencies,” a senior Chennai-based chartered accountant said, on condition of anonymity.

The ICAI, he argued, should promote members’ interests instead of promoting any language. “If this is not stopped now, tomorrow what is the assurance that ICAI will not ask its members to attach a Hindi copy of an audit report,” the chartered accountant added.

Tamil Nadu has always followed a two-language policy — Tamil and English. This ‘Hindi only’ policy, sources said, would inflict a heavy blow on all chartered accountants in the State, in the rest of South India as well as other non-Hindi speaking regions.

“I hope better sense prevails,” said a former Indian Bank official. “Even at our bank's founder's day function, except Tamizh Thaai Vaazhthu (the State anthem), all other programmes and speeches were in Hindi. How do they expect people to follow Hindi when people from Hindi-speaking States who are posted in Tamil Nadu never care to learn the local language,” he asks.

The official recounts an incident he observed at one of Indian Bank's branches. “An officer was speaking to a semi-literate lady customer in Hindi in spite of her telling him that she doesn’t follow Hindi. When I advised him, he simply looked at me and said nothing. All this will give the separatists who talk of a Tamil desiyam a big tool.”

Nationalistic approach’

In his message, Jambusaria noted that September 14 is observed as Hindi Diwas. However, he added, “I believe there should not be a specific day for Hindi, rather, Hindi should be part of our life. This day reminds us of our heritage and linguistic identity. We should be proudly speaking our rajbhasha on any occasion.”

According to Jambusaria, at a time when the whole world is looking at India as a global leader, successor and torchbearer, language also should be a global beacon. “With the government's focus on making India ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, it also focuses on us being Aatmanirbhar with our mother tongue and its nationalistic approach,” he said in the newsletter.

The language sermon by the ICAI chief is bound to ignite controversy, one that could have been avoided, and one that ICAI can certainly do without. Jambusaria’s appeal to promote Hindi has already upset a sizable section of ICAI members in Tamil Nadu, which has always been in the forefront in the battle against the imposition of Hindi.

Moneycontrol has reached out to ICAI for comment and will update this article when a response is received.
KT Jagannathan is a senior journalist based in Chennai
first published: Oct 25, 2021 01:31 pm

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