Santhali language made its debut in Rajya Sabha when a lawmaker from Odisha used it to raise a matter of urgent public importance during the Zero Hour. Sarojni Hembram of the Biju Janata Dal spoke in Santhali, an Austroasiatic-Munda language spoken mostly by tribals in Odisha. She also demanded Bharat Ratna for Raghunath Murmu, who in 1925 created the Ol Chiki script for the Santhali language.
Pt. Murmu is revered by tribals and is recognised as a big cultural icon in the state, she said, adding the state government has already recognised his contribution and now it was the turn of the nation to do so. Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who has encouraged MPs to use their local language for raising Zero Hour mentions while ensuring that English and Hindi translations are available to other members on headphones, said this was the first time that Santhali language was used in the Upper House.
Members thumped desks to welcome the move. Naidu said the interpretation in Hindi was done under a new scheme by a non-regular employee engaged for the purpose. The interpreter, he said, was a PhD student. Rajya Sabha has regular employees who translate statements made on the floor of the House in different recognised Indian languages into Hindi and English. To enlarge the basket of languages used, outside language experts have been engaged on need basis to translate. Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh too mentioned that this was the first time that the language was spoken on the floor of the House and welcomed the move.