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Learn Kannada or Get Sacked, Bank Staff in Karnataka Told

The Karnataka Development Authority (KDA) has asked senior bank managers working in the state to learn Kannada in six months or get sacked. The directive has been aimed at the non-Kannada speaking regional heads of nationalized, private and rural banks.The Authority also said that the day to day business of banks must be carried out in the local language so that people are not excluded from banking services, especially in rural areas. Earlier this year a customer had dragged ICICI bank to court after his cheque was dishonoured on the grounds that it was written in Kannada.

It is unclear if the KDA has the authority to sack bank staff, but the directive follows close on the heels of the language row in the Southern state. Hindi signs have been blackened out in the Bengaluru Metro. A social media campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #NammaBankuKannadaBeku (Our banks need Kannada) seeks to promote the use of the local language in the financial services industry.

People have posted tweets under the hashtag about how even ATMs do not have information in Kannada. Many had tweeted pictures of banks, ATM home pages, and other bank services in English and Hindi, to highlight the lack of local language options.

The thrust of the social media campaign and the directive is that financial services must be made available in simple and easily understandable terms in Kannada. All circulars and guidelines must be in Kannada, in addition to English and Hindi.

The institute of banking personnel selection holds competitive exams for bank recruitment. While merit is the criteria, the rules also state that people with local language skills should be recruited for each area.

The KDA’s stand is that those who are recruited must be asked to learn Kannada within six months of recruitment and those already in service must be given six months to learn the language. If they do not learn the language, they should be sacked. Further, the KDA says that all grade C and D workers must be locals, as laid down in the Sarojini Mahishi report.

The KDA wants all bank branches in the state to have a Kannada unit similar to the Hindi units were opened throughout India when Hindi was implemented. The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, had earlier said that the government won’t tolerate a discriminatory attitude towards locals by banks.


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