Speak only in English, Hindi: Southern Railway tells staff

Chennai: Even before the ‘Hindi imposition’ row could die down, another of that sort has surfaced, this time due to a circular from Southern Railway directing its officials to speak only in English and Hindi.

After a near collision incident in Madurai Division, between Kallikudi and Thirumangalam, a month ago because of a communication gap between the loco pilot and the station master, the Southern Railway had issued an internal circular dated 12 June.

It said, “Chief Traffic Planning Manager (CPTM) has instructed that the communication between the Divisional Control Office and the Stations Masters should be either in English or in Hindi and the use of regional language should be avoided to prevent either side of not understanding what is being said.”

The circular went on to note, “The objective of the above exercise is to improve communication between the control office and the station masters. It is the responsibility of the control office to ensure that every instruction passed by it to the station masters is clear and fully apprehended.”

It added, “Similarly, it is the responsibility of the station masters to ensure that requesting permissions or advising action taken by them is clear and fully comprehended by control office.”

Even as Tamil activists and political leaders expressed shock and slammed the Southern Railway for the circular, a senior official told News Today, “In Madurai Division, about a month back, there was a communication gap between the station master, the loco pilot and the controller. Each were comfortable in their own language.”

He added they communicated in their native tongue; Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam. “There was an error which resulted in a near-collision incident. Fortunately, it was averted. So to avoid such incidences, we had to take measures.”

The official observed that multiple language usage may not work as Railway personnel come from different parts of India. “However, English and Hindi are widely spoken and hence they were chosen as a standard means of communication,” the official added.

Reports in media have surfaced since this morning, citing that this move evokes Southern Railway’s stance against Tamil. Asked about this, the senior official said, “This circular is clearly being taken out of context. This is just a safety step and nothing else. The Southern Railway isn’t against regional language but communicating in one standard language will create a uniformity and decrease the communication errors.”

Mohammed Rayaan