Sundeep Bhutoria

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad fiasco

Tuesday, July 19, 2011: I arrived from Jaipur on Sunday night. The literary circle in Kolkata is rife with the controversy around Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad – the renowned institution located at Shakespeare Sarani in the heart of Kolkata. Many businessmen who are active on the social circuit too have evinced keen interest in the matter and have been following the recent developments involving the Parishad quietly.
Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad was founded by the Late Sitaram Seksaria and Bhagirat H Kanodia with the aim of promoting Indian languages, especially Bengali and Sanskrit. The Parishad has an auditorium, a conference room, and also used to have a library and rooms for scholars to stay when they visited the city.
Those who founded the Parishad were visionaries, and in this part of the country, it is the only such institution that seeks to promote regional Indian language as stated in the Memorandum of Understanding and Articles of Association.
Last week, Kolkata's Hindi print media reported at length the sit in by the Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad staff protesting against the management's decision to close down the Institution. The country’s leading scholars, including Mahashweta Devi, have expressed their solidarity with the workers.
Before I left for Jaipur, a group of staff members from the Parishad met me. What the media reports say is that the wage increment of the staff is the real bone of contention surrounding the whole issue. The employees are grossly underpaid as per extant government norms. I was told by the Parishad staff that if their total demands are accepted it would cost the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad not more than 3 to 4 lacs per annum, where as the profits made by the Institution each year, apart from the hefty deposits in the bank, is much more.
The management has its own reasons for not agreeing to increase the wages, but the result of closing down this Institution would cause a damage that cannot be easily repaired. I don’t understand if the founders, including member Trustee Laxmi Niwas Birla and committee member Vishnukant Shastri, could set up such an illustrious society, then what keeps the current society from running this reputed institute if it is a matter of paying 3 or 4 lacs per annum as wage increment to the staff.
Irrespective of who is at fault, it is a matter of shame that such an institute is closed as of now.
I think the real issue is something else that needs to be probed and sorted out by the Society itself. I strongly feel that the management, with leading industrialists on its board, should not be reluctant to shell out a paltry sum of Rs 33,000 per month towards staff salary. The problem definitely lies somewhere else.
A few weeks back I had met senior journalist and chief editor of a national Hindi daily, Om Thanvi, at the India International Centre in Delhi. He told me that he had received an invitation for a literary program in Kolkata from the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad and that he had sent in written his regret saying that he wasn’t at ease to attend the program after the kind of controversy the Parishad was embroiled in. In fact, Thanvi ji said that he wasn’t comfortable participating in any of the Parishad’s event.
A prominent national daily has, in its report, quoted the last six directors of the Parishad, leading scholars who have gone on record to say that they weren’t happy about the way the institution functioned. I ask are all six of them wrong?
Years ago, when the Parishad had rented space to a private school, the Society had come together, and, if I remember correctly, it was forced to shut down.
I think one of the main problems is that nobody wants to mediate between the management and the staff, or for that matter want to interfere in the current functioning of the Parishad which is in line with the civil society motto ‘Stay away till it hurts you directly’. As Ramdhari Singh Dinkar had rightly said, “History would also be written about people who want to stay away.” (Samar shesh hai , nahi pap ka bhagi keval vyardh jo tatasth hai, samay likhega unka bhi aapradh).
I am hopeful the Parishad will tide over the current impasse and not only work out a solution with the staff members but also put its act together to promote the cause it was set up for.
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