There was recently a report in the city newspapers which probably went unnoticed. Halls Road, it was announced, has been renamed Tamizh Vazhi Salai. A new signboard to that effect would soon be put up, the report went on. It is not clear from the report as to who or which body had taken this decision or whether it was final. If it is, then it is high time the authorities realised that such acts are nothing but empty gestures that are unlikely to cut ice with the general public. On the other hand, they are likely to cause a lot of irritation among the residents of the re-named thoroughfare and its users.

The rules are quite clear about change of names for roads and streets. These need resolutions to be passed by the relevant civic body. However, the decision needs to be ratified by the State Legislature before the change can actually take effect. There is no clarity on whether in the present case the Corporation and the Assembly have assented to the change.

This is not the first instance of re-naming. The earliest spree was in the late 1960s when a change in regime saw several streets getting new names. But that was a different era. A new party had won power largely on the basis of a language issue and such an act was very much in keeping with the prevailing public mood. But now the average citizen has moved on. Only the political parties of the State do not appear to have woken up to the fact. This became evident in 2010 when the then Corporation Council announced that all streets in the city that commemorated British personalities would be re-named after Tamil scholars. What followed was a spirited protest from the residents. They pointed out that in the event of a re-naming, they had to go through the pain of informing several statutory and other corporate bodies, with whom they had dealings, about the new name.

On its part, Madras Musings approached the matter from another angle. We published a list of all such streets and brought to the fore the reasons for their old names. We also argued that at least those among the British whose work had benefited our city ought to be remembered, while the others could go. Whatever be the reason, the proposal to change names was dropped.

The present exercise appears to be a more insidious one. A bulk renaming would attract public attention and large protests. On the other hand, taking up one road at a time would pass by unnoticed. At least that appears to have been the thinking behind the present change.

While we are all for commemorating and honouring the language of our State, we cannot help wonder as to why this name has been given to Hall’s Road. It is not as though any Tamil scholar has lived on that stretch. And if at all the name had to be given, why was it not bestowed on a thoroughfare in the newer parts of the city? Is the mother tongue honoured only if an existing street name is changed? Also, given our love for abbreviations, does Tamizh Vazhi Salai not run the risk of being branded TV Salai? We have plenty of similar instances – RK Salai, TTK Road, T’Nagar, JJ Nagar and KK Nagar, etc.

And lastly, what does a name change achieve? Does it solve parking issues, potholes, overflowing drains, illegal occupation of footpaths and encroachments – all common issues our thoroughfares suffer from? Would our civic body not be better off focussing on such matters and not on non-priority issues such as change of names?

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