By Shashank Sinha:
The Mamata Banerjee Government has decided to rename West Bengal as ‘PaschimBanga’, which is ‘West Bengal’ in Bengali. The decision was taken at an all-party meet, presided by the Chief Minister herself. The main reason given behind the change in nomenclature was that ‘W’ of West Bengal came way down the alphabetical order, which prevented the state from accruing various administrative advantages.
Though coming to such a retrograde name which is nothing but a Bengali translation of the current name — one that’s unpronounceable to many — has drawn flak, the whole affair seems more like a political stunt than any real step towards acquiring administrative gains. If the alphabetical position of ‘W’ was the main concern, it would have made more sense to change the name to ‘Bengal’ or ‘Banga’.
Whatever the case might be, name change is not a priority. With that said, even if it has been changed, the reason offered for the same is quite impractical and not fully defensible.
The name West Bengal had come up after the partition of the country in 1947, with East Bengal going to Pakistan. However, as a consequence of the 1971 war, East Bengal got freedom and was renamed Bangladesh. So, the state government’s predilection towards ‘West’ even now, seems farcical to say the least.
As a matter of fact, the change of name has been a trend in recent years. Bombay was renamed Mumbai, Madras was renamed Chennai and Calcutta as Kolkata. This has generally resulted in popular support for the ruling government, with many seeing it as a crucial step towards overcoming the vestigial remains of our colonial past. Similarly in the present scenario, this move is expected to bring political mileage to Mamata Banerjee, reaffirming her place as the number one populist leader in the state.
However, once the euphoria settles down, citizens will realize that they are still plagued by the same old problems and issues. The sagging infrastructure, the poor law and order situation, the overburdened and antiquated sewage system and the myriad other problems which have besieged them now, would still be there.
The Bengalis have a rich cultural and political heritage. They had played a very significant role in India’s independence struggle. Netaji Shubhas Chandra Bose had led the armed struggle against the British and thus inspired the whole nation. Besides, great writers like Rabindra Nath Tagore and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya belong to this ethnic group. So, while adopting a Bengali name does remind us of their glorious efforts, the reasons given for the change don’t sound too convincing.
Renaming the state PaschimBanga would bring it above Tamil Nadu, UP, Rajasthan and Punjab in the states’ alphabetical list. However instead of this rank-mongering, it would be much better if the state concentrates on improving its law and order and other similar malaise, which depend upon strong governance rather than any special central intervention. Tamil Nadu, despite being equally low in the alphabetical table, is one of the most prosperous state in India. So what is really required in West Bengal is some good administration, similar to what has been seen in Bihar in recent years, and not theatrics with the sole intention to excite crowds.
Finally, it would have been much better had the government not used the pretext of alphabetical issues, and stated that change was done to make the people of the region feel more connected. That could well have aroused more awakening among the denizens, and made them more conscious towards their duties for the state. Mamata Banerjee has in general shown an inclination towards promoting indigenous products. So this was an ideal platform for her to announce some of her policies regarding her state, and benefitting the local population, thereby fulfilling her obligation towards those who voted her into power by such a large majority. Alas, none of this happened.