The administration in Odisha’s Koraput district has decided to make it mandatory for shops and commercial establishments to display signboards and hoardings in Odia from 15 May this year.

The move follows the state cabinet’s decision on 14 March to make penal provision for those who fail to comply.

After launching a campaign on 1 April, on the occasion of ‘Utkal Divas’ to promote the use of local language, the district administration has now set 15 May as the deadline for government offices, educational institutions, shops and commercial establishments to include Odia prominently on their signage, said an official.

“The establishments can use any other Indian language on the signboard, but only second to the local language,” Koraput District Collector K Sudarshan Chakravarthy, who on Thursday chaired a meeting of administration officials and other stakeholders, said.

To make the decision effective, the cabinet also approved a proposal to amend the Odisha Shops and Commercial Establishment Act, 1956.

Pending amendment of the Act, the state government earlier this month asked district collectors to ensure use of Odia signage in all government offices and educational institutions within two months.

The administration will form special squads from May 16 to conduct raids on shops and commercial establishments to find out whether they have complied with the order, the collector said, adding that offenders will be taken to task.

The district authorities have also directed offices to make all correspondence in Odia.

Several activists and welfare organisations have hailed the Koraput administration’s decision as states like Telangana and Assam have also implemented similar rules.

“People are gradually losing the sense of belongingness to the state and the language. It’s a welcome move by the administration but it should be implemented sincerely,” said Binod Mohapatra, a member of Utkal Sammilani, a socio-cultural outfit.