Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy on Friday issued a clarification after his controversial statement claiming Hindi speakers are selling ‘Paani Puri’ in the state drew criticism. The minister’s statement comes amid the prolonged language debate about the use of Hindi as the national language of India.

Ponmudy questioned the rationale behind the argument that learning Hindi could open more employment opportunities for individuals. Saying that those who speak Hindi are engaged in menial jobs in Tamil Nadu, the minister at a Convocation ceremony at Bharathiar University said, “If the argument that learning Hindi could open more employment opportunities was true then why are those speaking the Hindu language selling ‘Paani-Puri’ here?”

After drawing criticism for his statement, the TN minister issued a clarification and stated, “Various persons from Tamil Nadu go and work in the Northern States. I said in this sense that various persons from the North come here and work because there is no work available in Northern states.”