Road renaming finds no support

Brigade Road may soon be changed to George Fernandes Road. No disrespect to the tall leader, but why meddle with history? And why is BBMP so insensitive to citizen sentiments?

Congress corporators want the Cantonment railway station named after the late C K Jaffer Sharief. He was a Karnataka leader who served in the Union cabinet. He was railway minister. DH PHOTO BY S K DINESH

The BBMP has proposed to rename prominent roads in Bengaluru. Brigade Road, to be called George Fernandes Road, is among the many landmarks in the city that will get new names.

Congress corporators want the Cantonment railway station named after the late C K Jaffer Sharief. Like Fernandes, Sharief is another Karnataka leader who served in the Union cabinet. Sharief was railway minister. 

The exercise is not just about honouring tall leaders, but also about using power and privilege. Mayor Sampath Raj has suggested the renaming of a road in Rajarajeshwari Nagar after D K Shivakumar’s father Dodda Alada Halli Kempegowda. 

Name changes often don’t work. Many old names in Bengaluru persist over new ones. For example, Double Road continues to be called by its old name, although it was officially renamed Kengal Hanumanthaiah Road to honour a distinguished chief minister. Almost no one knows the MG Road area is called Shantala Nagar, or that Richmond Town is called Mirza Ismail Nagar.

Congress MLA Soumya Reddy says if a road name has no relevance or connection to the city, there’s no harm in changing it. 

A young politician says renaming roads comes from a hunger for fame, and is often a result of misuse of the power vested in politicians. “Political leaders often boast about roads being named after them and their forefathers. A name change doesn’t matter to voters,” he says.      

Prominent name changes

Worked

  • South Parade Road to MG Road
  • Doddapete Road to Avenue Road
  • Cavalry Road to Kamaraj Road
  • Grant Road to Vittal Mallya Road

Didn’t work

  • Fraser Town to Pulikeshinagar
  • Richmond Town to Sir Mirza Ismail Nagar
  • Residency Road to Field Marshal Cariappa Road
  • Mission Road to P Kalinga Rao Road
  • Austin Town to F Kittel Nagar
  • Benson Town to Kadamba Nagar
  • Double Road to Kengal Hanumanthaiah Road

A brand is important
Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc

Landmarks attain a generic quality to the names. “For example, call Russell market or Cantonment railway station by any other name, will it be the same at all? And will people really call these heritage locations and roads by the new names?” he asks. Bijoor describes the desire to rename roads after politicians as “a manufacturer-centric and not a consumer-centric proposition.” “I believe railway station names such as Cantonment, City, and Bangalore East have gained in heritage terms over the decades and are identity fixes. Names are brand properties. Fiddling with them means destroying the brand equity these represent,” he explains. Renaming creates a disconnect with history, heritage and memory.

People build a bond with roads
Meera Iyer, convenor of INTACH Bengaluru, says old names have a place in history.

In her words: “The city is changing at a rapid pace and there are new junctions coming up every other day. The existing roads have been a part of the ethos and history of the city. People have grown up with these names. A sudden change of name can disrupt all of that. People, who have either lived here all their life or come here for work tend to
build a bond with the city. Renaming a road is wasteful expenditure.”

Old names still popular
Maya Jayapal, author of ‘Bangalore: The Story of a City’ (1997).

Believes changing names is an attempt to rewrite history. “The name of Richmond Road was changed to Sir Mirza Ismail Nagar but people still go by the old name. Most roads in England still retain the old names. They don’t meddle with them,” she says. The changing of names is so frequent she wonders whether the new names will be changed again after 50 years. “People may ask why hang on to the colonial past, but that is history. You can’t cut away from history.”

What about memories?
Fashion designer Paresh Lamba

The government should find better ways of honouring people. “It’s like giving the highest civilian honour to a random person. If anyone in public life can get a road named after himself, naming a road after Mahatma Gandhi gets trivialised,” he says. Renaming Brigade Road doesn’t serve any purpose.

Brigade Road will remain Brigade Road
Well-known author Shashi Deshpande

“Nothing can remain untouched but there should be a very good reason for renaming roads. Names used for many years are stubborn and will persist whatever new name is given to a road or a locality. Think of Mumbai’s Flora Fountain. Does anyone call it Hutatma Chowk? Brigade Road will remain Brigade Road, I am afraid.”

Find other roads to name
Naresh Narasimhan, architect and urban designer.

Wonders why the government is out to tamper with names of roads in the heart of the city. “There are roads like 100 Ft Rd and 80 Ft Rd all over the place. Why don’t they change the names of the roads in the periphery? Roads whose names have been changed are still known by their old names. The government should focus on repairing roads rather than on such wasteful exercises,” he says.

Comments (+)