In India's tech capital, Kannada now gets "prominence" on signboards of businesses

Kannada takes center stage on Bengaluru's signboards, complying with government mandate
Kannada takes center stage on Bengaluru's signboards, complying with government mandate
Kannada takes center stage on Bengaluru's signboards, complying with government mandate

Bengaluru |As one goes around India's tech hub, what catches the eye most these days is how the language of the land, Kannada, gets "prominence" on the signboards of businesses. A far cry indeed from the not-too-distant past when English held sway, thanks to a government directive.

With the deadline for complying with 60 per cent use of Kannada in signboards of businesses and establishments coming to an end, a vast majority of them in the city appear to have obeyed the mandate, with many even going for stopgap arrangements, aimed at ensuring compliance.

A bill mandating 60 per cent use of Kannada in signboards of businesses and establishments was passed by the Karnataka Assembly in February, and the government had warned that non-compliance would lead to the cancellation of the licences of businesses.

Now, temporary boards or banners instead of boards that are rules compliant, and also clothes or stickers covering the old boards, can be seen at several places in the city, in a bid to avoid fines and other penal action.

Many traders, who have gone for this ad hoc arrangement, cite demand and supply mismatch as the reason for not installing new boards before the deadline.

They say that in the wake of rules and the deadline for compliance, board makers or artists were besieged by traders and businesses with orders. There are supply side constraints, with an inadequate number of competent board artists to meet the surge in demand, coupled with resources and logistic issues.

"There is a delay in delivery of a new board with 60 per cent in Kannada, for which I had placed an order. So I have used this banner for the time being. I don't want to face any trouble for non-compliance," a trader told PTI on Thursday.

Bengaluru's civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike had earlier set a February 28 deadline to comply with 60 per cent use of Kannada in signboards of businesses and establishments in the city limits. However, Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar, who is also in-charge for Bengaluru Development, had extended the deadline by two weeks.

A shop owner said he had been to several board makers and artists, and many did not take his order, citing that "their hands are full." "While some who were ready to take orders said there will be some delay. I finally agreed to it. My board will come in a couple of days. Till then I have covered my existing board with stickers," he said.

Agreeing that there have been some delays on their part in delivering orders on time as required by the customers, board designers and manufacturers say, the process is time-consuming, and they are also facing a shortage of manpower to meet the sudden rise in demand, along with logistic issues.

According to official sources, by and large businesses have complied with the rules.

They said out of 50,357 shops and commercial establishments that were identified for violations, 49,732 have complied with the new rules, and the remaining 625 shops are yet to comply or are in the process.

Kannada activists and organisations have urged the authorities to ensure that traders or owners of establishments who have made temporary arrangements, comply with the rules permanently. They have also asked local authorities to ensure that the rules are compiled by businesses and establishments in other districts too, especially in the border regions.

The amendment bill, which is now an act, had made provision to ensure that the name boards of commercial, industrial and business undertakings, trusts, counseling centres, hospitals, laboratories, amusement centres and hotels, among others, functioning with the approval and sanction of the government or local authorities, display 60 per cent in the Kannada language.

Kannada shall be displayed in the upper half of the name board, it stated.

At the time of issuing fresh licences or renewing the existing licences, authorities will first ensure that they have complied with the rules on using Kannada in boards, Kannada & Culture Minister Shivaraj Tangadagi had earlier said, assuring that the government will also insert rules on imposition of fines for violation.

He had also said that the government will form task forces and an enforcement wing to ensure compliance.

Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government decided to amend the law in the wake of violent protests by pro-Kannada organisations targeting some businesses and establishments in Bengaluru for not giving prominence to Kannada.

Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, President of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) said considering that traders, businesses and establishments are complying with the rule, the government should give some time for the rest of them to adhere to rules.

"According to our information 90-95 percent of them have complied with the rule, the rest of them will also fall in line, the government should consider and give them some time, this is our request. They have certain issues like demand for boards and labour shortage issues to meet the demand, it has to be considered," he told PTI.

Abdul Zabee of "Shades", who designs or makes boards for businesses and shops said, "There has been a steady flow of order following the government rules for Kannada boards. We are taking orders as much as we can." Pointing out that board design businesses usually run with limited workers in hand, a lead in one such business not wanting to be named said, though "there is demand now, owners don't want to hire more people, as they may not be able to retain them in the future." Stating that they are fully aware of the sentiments behind the government rules, traders and establishment owners are requesting for some more time before the government initiates any action, as they are already in the process of complying with the order.

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