Language Data



  • G.S. Paper 1,2,3
  • The issue
  • Problem with the language data
  • Significance of ‘right to its language’
  • Importance of knowing the language data


  • The language data of the census have not been made public by the government since the 1961 census.

The problem with the language data

  • The information related to language data is handled by the Home Ministry.
  • During the colonial times, language was treated as a ‘sensitive’ subject and was seen as a cause for breakdown of law and order.
  • In 1961, a complete list of languages claimed during the Census as ‘mother tongues’ was disclosed as 1652.
  • From 1971 onwards, the Census decided to disclose names only of those languages which had more than 10,000 speakers.
  • The rationale behind this move was not specified.
  • As a result, the list of 1971 had only 108 language names.
  • 2001 language data put together several languages under a single category, undermining their diversity.
  • The 2011 language data has not been released yet.

Significance of  ‘right to its language’

  • UNESCO has been promoting the idea of language as an inalienable cultural right.
  • India is a formal signatory to the charter.
  • It has already built it into the charter of sustainable development goals.
  • The community’s right to its language becomes a non-negotiable right to cultural possession.
  • Similarly, the state’s obligation to secure and protect this right too becomes a non-negotiable duty.

The Importance of knowing the language data 

  • It is important for those who belong to the linguistically minority communities.
  • It helps them to take necessary action to preserve their language.
  • Longevity of multiple language is essential for maintaining the cultural diversity of the country.
  • Imparting education to children through their mother tongue is scientifically considered to aid full development of their cognitive and emotive faculties.
  • So the data will help the government to identify the needs of various regions so that it can provide supportive materials in their mother tongue.
  • The neglect of a community’s language and its language loss are among the most important reasons for induced migration.
  • So the data will help in understanding the demographic transitions like language induced migration to avoid urban sprawl.
  • Hence, the disclosure of data related to languages should be made as a primary obligation of the state.



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