Statistics on number of people with knowledge on Sanskrit
Census data of 2001 which estimated Sanskrit speaking population in India at 14,500 is quoted extensively by people in support of their view that ‘Sanskrit is an extinct language.’ If one were to understand the method for enumeration of language census, it is clear, that the above figure is not scientifically arrived at.
In the Census Data Enumeration Form, particulars about languages are captured under Column 10 and 11. Under column 10, one needs to specify their Mother Tongue and under column 11, proficiency in languages other than mother tongue known have to be mentioned. Proficiency is the ability to read , write or speak a language.
As regards Column 10, requiring a citizen to specify their mother tongue, there is no ambiguity. However under column 11, provision is available to specify only two languages in order of proficiency. Majority of citizens, might mention Hindi and English in order of their proficiency. If one were to take students studying in metropolitan and semi-urban cities, most of them study languages, other than Hindi/English as Second or Third languages. For example, a lot of students study Sanskrit or Other foreign languages like French, German etc., as an additional language. Such citizens do not have a choice of mentioning their proficiency under Column 11.
Also with Sanskrit language, lot of people study Sanskrit in private to enable them to understand ancient literatures, which are primarily, in Sanskrit. Their proficiency is also left out in the above enumeration.
Sanskrit is offered as a language in the curriculum in 22 of the 32 States/UTs in India and in 1057 Sanskrit Colleges/Centres affliated to different Sanskrit Universities funded by UGC. Lakhs of students have enrolled for the same. Some statistics cited below support the above.
- In Kerala, 2975 Schools have offered Sanskirt as a language after 5th Standard, and 2,50,000 students have opted for the same.
- In Karnataka, around 600 schools offer Sanskrit as their first language. Similarly, Undergraduate courses for Sanskrit started in 2010 had 4000 students. In 2013, approximately 42,000 students have enrolled for the course.
Hence in the context of the above, the Government must compile the number of citizens who have knowledge of sanskrit . In the first instance, the governemnt can release the number of students studying Sanskrit in Schools and Universities at present. Thereafter, the data on people who have graduated out of the acamedic institutions can be compiled and released.
The above exercise, can put at rest all speculation about the number of people with a knowledge of sanskrit and some of the inaccurate views propogated, based on such numbers.
The relevant aspect in the census enumeration form is highlighted below.