A Push to Support Language Diversity in India

By Hadley Robinson, for PRI’s The World (class of 2012)

Latu Rutia, 80, speaks Rathwee, the language of the Rathwa people.

GUJARAT, India, July 5, 2012—In western India, in the state of Gujarat, lies the small town of Chhota Udaipur. Many people from the Rathwa tribe live here. Down a narrow dirt road, past cotton plants and piles of harvested corn husks, 80-year-old Latu Rutia rises from the cot on his back porch. Rutia wears just a loincloth and an earring. He speaks in his native language of Ratwee. Rutia says in the schools his grandchildren attend they are taught in the state language, Gujarati. “They are forced to speak differently,” he says.

Rutia worries that elements of the Rathwee language are trickling away, even though it’s believed there are nearly a million speakers. However, the number of speakers may be less important than how and where the language is spoken.

Dr. Ganesh Devy initiated the People's Linguistic Survey of India and came up with its unique format, which includes the grammar of the language, the folklore and how the language explains time and color.

That’s where the People’s Linguistic Survey of India comes in. They have field workers spread across the country documenting Rathwee and hundreds of Indian languages.

Researchers are documenting each language’s characteristics and recording its folk stories and songs. They also note how the languages describe time and color. For example, the Rathwee language labels various stages of dawn — when the cock crows as one part, and when the birds start moving, another.

Female Farmers

By Alissa Figueroa, for Free Speech Radio (class of 2011)

UTTAR PRADESH, India, April 2010—Most of India’s rural women farm, but only 15 percent of them own the land they cultivate. As men leave agriculture for work in India’s growing service and construction sectors (often in cities) the country’s primary cultivators–women—are left without legal land titles. That means they can’t take out loans from banks or government subsidized credit programs, and in many states, they can’t sell their produce at government wholesale markets to ensure a fair price. But the women farmers of India have joined together, in small village-level lending groups, and large, well-organized federations and campaigns to negotiate the system, and fight for full land rights. Slowly, rural women are making their voices heard, even in parliament, where for the first time ever this year, women farmers received an allocation in the country’s national budget.

Hear the story at Free Speech Radio

Alissa Figueroa travelled to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand to report on female farmers. Her final project is a radio story for Free Speech Radio.

Growing Rice Debt Free

By Beth Hoffman, for Living on Earth (class of 2009)

ORISSA, India, April 2009—In recent years there have been many reports about desperately indebted farmers in India. Throughout the world, farmers have become increasingly dependent on artificial fertilizers and pesticides to boost production. But the costs are high – and many poor farmers end up buried in debt.

Beth Hoffman reported from Orissa, India on attempts by farmers there to break this cycle of chemical dependency. Some farmer advocates there are trying to find low-cost and low-tech solutions to India’s tired soil – solutions that can increase fertility and yield without more trips to the moneylender.

Beth’s story is a radio piece that aired for Living on Earth in April of 2009.

Gay Rights in India

By Abbie Swanson, for Making Contact (class of 2009)

DELHI, India, January 2009—”Gay Rights in India” looked at a group of gay men and women trying to overturn a British colonial law in India called Section 377. The law, which has since been overturned, made being gay illegal. Abbie interviewed people in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai for the story.



Abbie’s project is an 18-minute radio documentary. The piece aired in June of 2009 on Making Contact and in July of ’09 on KALW.