What’s in a name?

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It seems that the Karnataka government is on a name changing spree. In order to get rid of the colonial hangover, the state government has altered the names of 12 cities last month. The centre has given a nod to the renaming of cities like Bangalore which is now officially known as Bengaluru, Mangalore as Mangaluru; Bellary as Ballari; Bijapur as Vijayapura or Vijapura; Belgaum as Belagavi; Chikmagalur as Chikkamagaluru; Gulbarga as Kalaburagi; Mysore as Mysuru; Hospet as Hosapete; Shimoga as Shivamogga; Hubli as Hubballi, and Tumkur as Tumakuru.

Jnanpith awardee UR Ananthamurthy had urged the then chief minister N Dharam Singh, in 2005, to rename Bangalore to mark Karnataka’s golden jubilee celebrations. Even as Singh readily agreed, demands from other districts cropped up, making it a list of 12 cities. The approval came after taking views of the Survey of India, Ministry of Railways, Department of Posts and Ministry of Science, while the Intelligence Bureau had also given its clearance to the state’s proposal. The final approval came from Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The name changing process is not a new aspect as several cities have been renamed in the past for instance, Bombay as Mumbai, Calcutta as Kolkata, Madras as Chennai, Pondicherry to Puducherry, Poona to Pune. Several cities of Kerala too have been renamed which include Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin to Kochi, Calicut to Kozhikode, Quilon to Kollam, Trichur to Thrissur, Cannanore to Kannur, Palghat to Palakkad, Alleppey to Alappuzha, Alwaye to Aluva, Tellicherry to Thalassery, Badagara to Vatakara and many others.

The renaming of 12 cities in Karnataka comes after six years of the State government sending the proposal to the Centre. The State Revenue Department had sent the proposal to the Centre seeking its nod for changing the names of 12 cities on October 13, 2008. However, the name change is applicable only to cities whereas institutions are likely to retain the old names.

The name changing process is going to continue in the future too as whenever government changes they try to impose their own agenda for garnering political mileage. Such tactics are mostly adopted by states to maintain their regional identity as most of the cities has started becoming cosmopolitan after the onset of globalisation and massive migration from rural areas.

Instead of focussing of providing good governance the government is more bothered about changing names of cities. Renaming procedure is a tedious task and imposes a financial burden on the exchequer. Names have to be changed on letterheads, signboards of railway stations, bus stops, official gazette etc which is an additional expenditure at the cost of the tax-payers money. A name change will not make a city world class as many of our cities are grappling with problems like collapsing infrastructure, rising population, unemployment, crimes and rapid urbanisation. The government could have used the same money to improve infrastructure, provide better amenities to citizens and increasing safety of women. There are many other burning issues which need the immediate attention of the government instead of going on a city renaming spree.

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