Corruption isn’t a new phenomena; however, the modern fight against it is. In India, measures to control corruption have reached an extreme, with certain bank notes being banned. However, as the country progresses to a future without corruption, they are simultaneously looking to their past with language…
On November 8th, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to the nation that Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes will no longer be legally recognized as currency. The Prime Minister noted: “To break the grip of corruption and black money, we have decided that the currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight.” This bold move took the whole world by surprise. However, the Indian general public appears to be supportive of the bold stance with anti-corruption in India.
Inside the country it may affect residents of villages the most due to their lack of access to digital banking. Many rural residents travel to large cities for medical treatment. While government health facilities will still accept the banned notes, the private hospitals that provide the highest quality care are not allowed to accept them. It’s widely reported that hundreds of thousands of Indians are postponing their surgeries and medical procedures simply because cash is the most widespread way to pay for medicine.
Corruption in India
The severity of action corresponds with the graveness of the situation surrounding corruption in India. The parallel economy is estimated to be at least 30 percent of India’s GDP, only about 1 percent of India’s population pays taxes, and it’s believed that Pakistani intelligence agencies print fake Indian rupees (usually of larger denomination) to pay for terrorist activities in India.
Neighboring Nepal and Bhutan are affected too. The estimated amount of Indian currency circulating in Nepal is 10-15 billion. Most of the Nepal population lives close to the Indian border, and many people make a living off trade with Indian tourists who pay in rupees. Indian security sources believe Nepal is the main hub used by the Pakistani intelligence agencies to funnel fake currency into the Indian market. Bhutan’s finance secretary Nim Dorji said that Indian currency was used extensively in his country: “Indian rupees are very prevalent in Bhutan, not just because of the border trade, but due to the hydropower projects [being constructed by India].”
Whether or not Mr. Modi’s ban will be successful in reducing corruption in India, or if it will simply succeed in hurting the country’s once quickly growing economy, is still being debated. With many people already suffering monetarily, there is still general support of Mr. Modi’s efforts to reduce corruption – attributable to his persuasion and communication abilities.
Communication with the Indian people is key to Mr. Modi retaining support – but it is also part of a growing phenomenon in the country, entirely separate from its corruption.
An Increase in Another Form of Communication – the Sanskrit Language
Along with an increase of efforts for anti-corruption in India (alongside the modern compliance mentality in the country), there has been a growing popularity in a seemingly more ancient practice. Specifically, an interest among the Indian population in the country’s traditional language: Sanskrit. Mattur and Hosahali villages near city of Shivamogga in Karnataka state, India are notorious for the large number of people who speak Sanskrit on a daily basis. Sacred to Hindus spoken Sanskrit, or the “refined speech”, is used even by Muslim dwellers of the villages in conversation among each other. According to the local history, the Vijayanagar emperor gifted Mattur and Hosahali to the scholars in 1512. Mattur and Hosahali are often visited by foreign and Indian scholars of the sacred Sanskrit language who want to practice its spoken version. Mattur has produced over 30 Sanskrit professors who are teaching in Kuvempu, Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore Universities.
Despite its linguistic uniqueness Mattur and Hosahali aren’t a cloistered hermitage. Many young people move to neighboring villages in search of greener pastures, and find their occupation in software engineering, teaching and tutoring their native language of Sanskrit. The main source of livelihood in Mattur and Hosahali is traditional agriculture. They cultivate areca nut, coconut and vegetables.
Vedic or Pre-classical form of Sanskrit appeared in the second millennium BCE from an earlier Indo-European language. Classical Sanskrit acquired fixed grammatical structure by roughly 500 BCE and has not changed ever since. Back then it was not thought of as a separate language or dialect, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. It was a marker of the social class and education.
Besides its liturgical and educational importance, the Sanskrit language served as lingua franca among educated dwellers of different regions in India for many centuries. Its importance as an everyday spoken language declined after political instabilities and multiple invasions to India during Middle ages, however it was still widely studied for religious and culturally educational purposes. Sanskrit revival in India began in 1894 when the American Asiatic and Sanskrit Revival Society was established. After India gained its independence, the popularization of Sanskrit began. Now, it is an official language of Uttarakhand state and is a common second language to learn in school.
Is it a coincidence that India is now genuinely interested in its traditional language, that always emphasized the importance of moral and spiritual purity, while it undergoes painful and arduous cleansing from corruption and bribery? Perhaps, perhaps not – though it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any documents for corruption cases needing translation from Sanskrit for the time being.
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