Author Khalid Bashir Declines To Be Member of Urdu Promotion Council

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SRINAGAR: Former officer, poet, and author Khalid Bashir Ahmad has declined to be a member of the recently constituted State Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (SCPUL). He has said the Council structure and mandate are in complete contradiction with the one that was discussed, conceived and recommended by the experts in a meeting earlier in 2013.

Khalid Bashir Ahmad, the author. KL Imnage: Aijaz Ganai

“The constituted SCPUL is no more than a Government Committee of a multitude of official and non-official members without any defined mandate,” Bashir said in a statement. “I am afraid the constituted SCPUL defeats the purpose and the spirit behind the conceived and approved SCPUL.”

Khalid Bashir was included as a member of the SCPUL under the Government Order No. 113-HE of 2016, issued on February 23, 2018.

“I am grateful to the Higher Education Department for thinking of me as a Member of the SCPUL,” the statement said. “However, in the given set up, as a Member of SCPUL I do not see myself contributing anything worthwhile.”

The poet-author has detailed the problems that the SCPUL has in its set-up. His observations are here:

“My first reaction on looking at the present Government Order is that the constituted SCPUL is not the SCPUL conceived and recommended by the Government-appointed High-Level Committee and approved by the Government. It is not even a shadow of that except for the name.

As Secretary, J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages, I was one of the members of the High-Level Committee that recommended the establishment of the State Council for Promotion of Urdu in 2013. The creation of an autonomous SCPUL with defined composition, aims, and objectives, administrative set-up and functions, was a policy matter and a commitment of the State Government made on the floor of the Legislative Council and ought to have been followed by a reference to the State Cabinet and issuance of an appropriate order. In comparison, however, the constituted SCPUL is no more than a Government Committee of a multitude of official and non-official members without any defined mandate. I am afraid the constituted SCPUL defeats the purpose and the spirit behind the conceived and approved SCPUL.

I feel constrained to recall how the idea of SCUPL came about and what were its envisaged aims, objectives and functions. On a reference from the State Legislative Council, a 6-member High Level Committee headed by the Chief Secretary was constituted vide Government Order No. 577-GAD of 2013 dated: 05-04- 2013, to look into the issues of promotion of the Official Language of the State i.e. Urdu; ways and means of overcoming the shortage of Urdu, Dogri and Kashmiri language teachers in Government Schools particularly the possibility of appointing subject-specific teachers by the Education Department; and setting-up of Urdu Academy at Jammu and Srinagar.

During its first meeting on 10 June 2013, when the proposed Urdu Academy was taken up for discussion, I expressed reservations about its efficacy, given its proposed composition and functions. The proposed Academy would have worked at cross purposes with the J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages and replicated what the later was already doing with regard to the promotion of Urdu language. I was able to convince the Committee on setting up of a vibrant, autonomous State level institution with active promotional and advisory role in the development of Urdu language in the State. This role was envisaged beyond activities JKAACL or other State Academies were performing. A Sub-Committee, headed by Commissioner/Secretary Tourism and Culture, with myself and Special Secretary, Higher Education as members, was constituted to dwell upon the issue further and come up with recommendations.

The Sub-Committee recommended constitution of State Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (SCPUL) with aims and objectives to promote and propagate Urdu language in Jammu & Kashmir; advise the Government on connecting Urdu language with employment and its propagation through curriculum and other means; take steps for making available in Urdu language knowledge of scientific and technology development; liaise with the State Government and other agencies in matters relating to promotion of Urdu language; and undertake projects for promotion of Urdu language as the Council may deem fit.

The proposed functions of the SCPUL included taking steps and suggesting ways and means to the Government, and coordinating activities undertaken by various institutions of the Government for promotion of Urdu language; arranging for sale and exhibition of Urdu books in the State; running vocational and skill- based courses in Urdu calligraphy and computer (The calligraphy school run by JKAACL was proposed to be transferred to the SCPUL); advising and suggesting the Government on Urdu curriculum for schools and colleges; giving scholarships to meritorious students in Urdu language; instituting an annual Urdu Award for propagation of the Official Language in J&K by any individual, institution or NGO; providing financial assistance to small and medium Urdu newspapers/journals for promotion of Urdu journalism; running orientation courses in Urdu language for non-Urdu speaking officials of the Government; advising the Government on issues connected with Urdu language as may be referred to it, and undertaking any other activity for the promotion of Urdu language as may be deemed fit by the Council. The Sub-Committee also recommended the strengthening of the Urdu Section of the J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages.

 The SCPUL was recommended to be an autonomous organization with Chief Minister as its Chairman and an Executive Board comprising 5 members of proven literary caliber, including some from outside J&K, and 3 official members including Minister for Culture, Administrative Secretary, Department of Culture and Financial Advisor. Director SCPUL, an eminent Urdu scholar/writer/academician, was to be the administrative head of the Council and the Member Secretary of the Executive Board. An establishment comprising 22 administrative and technical staff of different categories was to assist him in the first instance. For decisions on financial matters, the Council was to have a Finance Committee.

 The recommendations made by the Sub-Committee were adopted in full by the High-Level Committee and incorporated in its Final Report. The Report was issued on 4 October 2013 and presented by the Government in the Legislative Council where it was adopted.

The SCPUL now constituted through the Government Order No. 113-HE of 2016 dated 23-02-2018, it is nowhere near the SCPUL approved by the Government. It is not clear why, how and by whom the original composition of the SCPUL as recommended by the State Government-appointed High-Level Committee headed by the Chief Secretary, and committed to by the State Government following adoption by the Legislative Council, has been changed.

The composition of the constituted SCPUL is of a typical Government-appointed Committee where a conscious effort appears to have been made to create a balance among different regions of the State than focus on the promotion of the State’s Official Language. This is not what had been conceived in the establishment of the SCPUL. The Director of the SCPUL is not even Member Secretary of the Council. What is his position in the Council and how is he supposed to function is not clear.  Where is his administrative and technical staff?

I have come to this painful conclusion that the Government Order in question is an affront to the High Level Committee, the State Government, State Legislature and, above all, the Official Language – poor Urdu.

Once again, I am grateful to the Higher Education Department for thinking of me as a Member of the SCPUL. However, in the given set up, as a Member of SCPUL I do not see myself contributing anything worthwhile. Thanks. But, no, thanks.” 

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