In practice, of course, this proposal has been honored in the breach more than in reality, but it took widespread rioting and loss of life to force a compromise. Meanwhile, support for Hindi that had previously been accorded to Congress Party was transferred to other, ofttimes rabidly fundamentalist Hindu parties, thus draining Congress of its traditional support. In actuality, then, in Hindi areas there is little attention paid to English and even less to a third language; in non-Hindi areas, such as Tamilnadu, Hindi is only taught sub rosa if at all, while great support can be found for English (as well as Tamil, of course). In other areas, such as Kerala, a more open outlook allows the teaching of as many languages as are deemed useful.
I would argue that the three-language formula is in fact consonant with the traditional multilingualism and linguistic diversity of the subcontinent. It fits the linguistic culture of the area, and it rejects the monism of policy planners who have tried to impose imported policies of the Soviet or other types. It does not make the Hindi areas happy, and it may result in the end in the disintegration of India as we know it, but just as we have seen in the recent disintegration of the Soviet Union, their language policy did not succeed in making various linguistic groups happy, either. We should not expect it to succeed in India, where it was perhaps doomed from the outset, but a policy that recognizes the historical multilingualism, the linguistic diversity, and the reverence for ancient classical languages is more likely to succeed than an imported model of any sort.
What is lacking from the current policy is the `unity at the top' levels that I mentioned earlier; the three-language formula does not make it clear what is at the top, and this is perhaps its fatal flaw. Perhaps the best that could be achieved would be to enshrine Sanskrit as India's national language, and then go ahead and use any other language at the instrumental level, with no claims to sanctity, purity, antiquity, or whatever that seem to be inherent in the current quest for a language that fills the bill. What seems to have gotten lost is the symbolic function that special languages often have in various polities; India lacks a candidate for the symbolic function, though Sanskrit used to suffice. Now individual languages such as Hindi and Tamil have taken on symbolic functions, and the instrumental value of either language is diminished; the tendency then is for English to take over as the instrumental language, to the detriment of all others.