Siddaramaiah Sarkar Puts Stamp on ‘Kannadiga Pride’ as New Law Makes 60% Kannada Mandatory on Signboards

The Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill, which mandates that all commercial businesses across the state display signboards that are 60 per cent in Kannada and 40 per cent in English, was passed in the Upper House on Tuesday. It was passed in the state assembly on February 16.

According to the Bill, Kannada shall be displayed in the upper half of the name boards of all commercial establishments, industries, hospitals, and organisations.

Bengaluru saw several commercial establishments put up a white cloth to cover their English name boards or remove them to put up fresh boards in accordance with the new rule. The Congress government in Karnataka had set up a deadline of February 28 for all establishments to follow the rule or face action.

Harish Prasad, who runs a commercial business in Bengaluru’s central business district, said every business would follow the rule but time was a crucial factor.

“We need time to get the signboards made and with thousands of establishments making a beeline for the change, there is a waiting period. We are all here to follow the law,” he said.

Another businessman who did not want to be named asked whether there would be any specifications in terms of font size or dimensions.

“Sometimes two letters in English is just one in Kannada. We are expecting dimension details that will help us design our name boards better,” he said.

In December last year, BBMP chief commissioner Tushar Girinath set a deadline after a meeting of zonal commissioners, instructing officials to issue notices and conduct surveys. He empowered the officials with the authority to suspend licenses for non-compliance.

Groups of Kannada activists, affiliated with the Narayan Gowda faction of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, pelted stones and damaged property, pulling down English signboards of businesses not using Kannada. The protests turned violent, with activists vandalising malls and blackening Hindi and English signs on prominent outlets. They claimed that despite notices from the city’s civic body, many did not adhere to the rule. However, the police swung into action, and the protesters, including Gowda, were taken into custody.

“If establishments are found not adhering to the rule, the businesses will lose their license to operate,” explained an official working closely with the ministry of Kannada and culture.

The Bill passed in the budget session seeks to amend the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Act, 2022, which was passed in the previous BJP government. The Bill was passed at the time with the intention to preserve Kannada as a language and promote Kannadigas. The BJP-led Karnataka government had then proposed that companies that do not give first preference to Kannadigas for jobs will not be eligible for government sops and incentives.

“This rule should be implemented across the state. Any violators should be punished as per the law. This has been our fight for decades, and we want to ensure complete implementation of the policy. There should be no room for the government or subsequent governments to do a U-turn,” said Arun Javagal, KRV’s organising secretary, to News18.

With this amendment, the use of Kannada language by commercial establishments further strengthens the cause to preserve and protect Kannada’s rich culture and heritage, said government sources.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had reiterated the Congress government’s commitment to those born, raised, and living in the state. He mandated that commercial establishments must have 60 per cent signboards in Kannada, instructing compliance before February 28.

“Let’s follow the rule and be proud Kannadigas,” Siddaramaiah had tweeted.

Kannada activists were also seen using loudspeakers to make announcements in commercial hubs of Bengaluru like Chickpete, Balepete, Cottonpete, and Gandhinagar, instructing traders to “respect the local language Kannada while conducting their businesses and change their boards immediately into the prescribed format”.

Karnataka’s neighbour Maharashtra has plans to go to court on the 60 per cent Kannada-40 per cent English signboard rule. A delegation of Marathi-speaking traders led by members from Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) operating in Karnataka’s Belagavi met with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde. They spoke of how Marathi-speaking citizens and businessmen are facing threats from local Kannada organisations, including threats to close off free health insurance scheme offices initiated by Maharashtra in Belagavi.

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