Allahabad was recently renamed Prayagraj. But is there a process in place for renaming places? Here is a detailed guide.
Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh was recently renamed as ‘Prayagraj’. There were occasions in the past when names of major cities were also changed. Madras was renamed Chennai, Bombay as Mumbai, Calcutta as Kolkata etc. But, is there a policy or process in place for changing names of places? Based on the information obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) using the Right to Information, we have compiled the important steps in the process. He is a short guide.
What is the process?
The detailed process for changing the name of a place was originally listed in a letter written by Sardar Fateh Singh, the then Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, on 11th September, 1953. This was modified in 2005 to include an exception. This letter was sent to all the State Governments who are expected to send proposals for change in names based on the broad criteria listed in this letter. The letter mentions in the very beginning that changes in names of villages, towns etc. should be discouraged as far as possible unless there are compelling reasons to justify the change. The letter also mentions that all such proposals should be sent to Ministry of Home Affairs before any change is made.
What are the broad principles based on which change in names is allowed?
The letter mentions that the State Governments should keep the following five (5) broad principles in mind when making proposals for change in names.
- Unless there is some very special reason, it is not desirable to change the name of a place which people have got used to.
- Names of Villages etc. having a historical connection should not be changed as far as possible.
- A change should not be made merely on grounds of local patriotism or for linguistic reasons, e.g., villages etc. should not be renamed after national leaders merely to show respect to them or for satisfying local sentiment in the matter of language etc. (An exception can, however, be made in the case of martyrs whereby the name can suitably be added to the name of a place sought to be changed, if a request is made by the state government and there is general recognition of the role of martyr in national life).
- In selecting new names, care should be taken to see that there is no village or town etc. of the same name in the state and neighbourhood, which might lead to confusion.
- While recommending any change, the State Government should furnish detailed reasons for proposing change in the name and also for selecting the new name.
In the same letter, the government also mentions that restoring names of ancient places is eminently desirable. The letter says, ‘When an ancient place has fallen into decay and with that the old place name has also disappeared, the ancient name should be restored. To cite an instance, the village now called Gandhawal in the old Dowas state near Ujjain has been built on the ruins of an ancient town populous and flourishing in the times of Vikramaditya, and mentioned in the ancient scriptures and other books as Gandharvapuri. The present name is a corruption of Gandharvapuri. The government of Madhya Pradesh many consider restoring the ancient name.’
Is this process followed for all places?
As per the government’s guidelines, this process has to be followed for change in names of villages, towns, cities etc. This process has to be followed even for the change in name of Railway Stations. In the case of a change in the name of a road in a city, the municipal authority is authorized to do it. The change in the name of a state requires a legislation in parliament.
Once the proposals for renaming a town/ city/ village/ railway station are submitted by the State Governments to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry considers the proposals in consultation with other agencies and issues a ‘no objection’ in case where the proposal is approved. Once the approval is received, a Gazette Notification is issued by the relevant state government.
As per data shared by the government, 51 such proposals have been submitted by various states since April 2017. Of these, 41 are approved, one from Nagaland is rejected and the rest are under process.
Featured Image: Changing names of places