Nurses attend a Covid patient at a Delhi hopsital (representational image) | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Nurses attend Covid patient at a Delhi hospital [representational image] | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Text Size:

New Delhi: The Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (GIPMER), a Delhi government hospital, withdrew a controversial order asking its nursing personnel to speak only in English or Hindi, barring the use of Malayalam.

The medical director of the hospital, Dr Anil Agarwal, withdrew the order Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after it was issued and faced widespread flak on social media.

Officials in the Delhi government also confirmed that an enquiry will be conducted into how the order was passed in the first place.

Hospital officials confirmed that there were over 300 nurses who were Malayali at GIPMER.

Issued on 5 June by the nursing superintendent of the hospital, the order stated: “A complaint has been received regarding Malayalam language is being used for communication in working places on GIPMER. Whereas maximum patient and colleagues do not know this language and feel helpless causing a lot of inconvenience (sic).”

“So it is directed to all nursing personnel to use only Hindi and English for communication otherwise serious action will be taken,” the order, which was accessed by ThePrint, added.

A union group called Delhi Malayali Nurses took to Twitter Saturday to express their outrage at the order with the hashtag ‘#RIGHT_TO_SPEAK_MALAYALAM’.

“Strongly condemn the order by the N.S of GBPH Delhi denying speaking Malyalam. This is a typical harassment on linguistic basis and creating apartheid on the basis of language. We need an apology from the concerned,” the union tweeted and tagged the official handles of the chief ministers of Delhi and Kerala, and Delhi’s health minister Satyendra Jain.

After reports emerged that the order has been revoked, the union group tweeted that they had not noticed such a revoked order and will continue their agitation till they receive an apology.

Also read: Ireland to Malta, UAE to Belgium — all want Indian nurses, offer better pay and perks

Social media criticism

The order had garnered severe criticism on social media across the board.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a clipping of the news report and called for a stop to “language discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Shashi Tharoor, MP from Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram, also lambasted the order.

“It boggles the mind that in democratic India a government institution can tell its nurses not to speak in their mother tongue to others who understand them. This is unacceptable, crude, offensive and a violation of the basic human rights of Indian citizens. A reprimand is overdue!” tweeted Tharoor.

Once the hospital issued a clarification in this regard, the Congress leader put out another tweet calling it “ a small victory for decency and common sense over parochialism”.

This is also not the first time such an order has been passed by a hospital in Delhi.

In October 2020, the Institute of liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) had prohibited its staff members from speaking in their regional language within hospital premises, following complaints from visitors who felt “insulted”.

They often presumed that the staff was talking about them or the patients they were accompanying.

Also read: Careless people, confusing rules, crumbling systems — Covid nurses reveal worst of pandemic


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism