The battle for Hindi at La Trobe: Ball in the University’s court

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 27 November 2020: The decision of the La Trobe University to scrap its Hindi teaching has generated unprecedented opposition from all sections of society. Political parties, community groups, and members have called upon the University to rescind its decision. The ‘Hindi Action Group’ which spearheaded the opposition roped in political leaders and the community highlighting the issue.

A signature campaign that attracted 2,463 people has been submitted to the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University. Reports indicate the matter has been taken up by a Consultative Committee of the University. Earlier, Ian Woodford who teaches Hindi there submitted a proposal to help the university in this matter plagued by post COVID revenue shortfall and falling student numbers.

Saksham Katyal, volunteer ‘Hindi Action Group’ says, “A language is a bridge between two and supporting Hindi will become a bridge of prosperity for both India and Australia.”

“The response from all quarters has been positive and now the ball is in the court of the La Trobe University to take a positive decision, ” says Vikrant Kishore, filmmaker & academic, actively working on the issue.

Some suggestions made to the University are:

1.Alternatives that allow the university to maintain a Hindi program for less cost, while also attracting more students.
2.The university must take into account the overwhelming support that the Hindi program has received from the public, politicians, and community groups.
3.Since multiple federal ministers have indicated a willingness to explore funding options, thus, it would be premature to close the Hindi Program before the Vice Chancellor’s office has a chance to engage directly with these ministers.
4.The Review Committee at La Trobe must request the Vice Chancellor’s office to do engage with politicians, and the community to understand their sentiment/response, and how best they can utilize the support offered.
5.We hope that some arrangement can be made for 3 years of support for the Hindi Language Programme at La Trobe, to help us get through the crisis.
6.We would support any University campaign to raise awareness of the Hindi program among students from India.
7.If immediate commitment cannot be obtained from the government, in that case, one year delay on any decision, so that we continue to explore various possibilities.
8.In case if it is decided that the Hindi major must be eliminated, we would like to urge the University to keep a core number of Hindi subjects operating. These would be electives that operate as “service subjects” to other programs and departments in the university.

The ‘Hindi Action Group’ reveals Federal Labor’s Peter Khalil Member For Wills, Matthew Guy MP, Victoria, Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens, Intaj Khan, former Councillor Wyndham City Council among others have raised the issue or written letters to concerned authorities.

Federal Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs has assured the ‘Hindi Action Group’ during a telephonic conference he will help the community stop the La Trobe University from scrapping the Hindi program. His assurance came after a telephonic discussion with the Group.

Meanwhile, the Indian Consul General Mr. Raj Kumar has assured all support and assistance to help the community retain the Hindi program at the University. Mr. Raj Kumar was talking to a delegation of community members who met him recently at the Indian Consulate briefing him about the latest in the issue and the background behind it.

He is likely to meet the La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor soon and is calling a community meeting to discuss the matter.

The ‘Hindi Action Group’ has been inundated with phone calls and emails of support for raising the issue and taking it to its possible logical conclusion.

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