Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXV No. 9, August 16-31, 2015

It’s back to renaming streets


Our Corporation is at it again. Having in its opinion solved all problems such as potholes, illegal constructions, and garbage clearance, it found time hanging heavy on its hands and decided to work on changing the names of several roads of the city. It is high time that the powers that be realised that such exercises are futile ones and the watching public is largely indifferent to such gimmickry. In fact, what the people want is delivery on several civic issues and nothing other than that is going to be acceptable.

This is not the first time that our city’s civic body has embarked on this name-changing spree. The previous instance was during the Tamil conference when the then Mayor, in a case of misplaced zeal, announced that all streets bearing the names of Englishmen would be renamed after Tamil scholars. This journal had then brought out a comprehensive list of such streets, explaining the history behind each name. We had also pointed out that while we were not in any way against the honouring of Tamil scholars, this could safely be done in new areas of the city where there are plenty of streets that are in the need of names. This way, we had argued, we can also save ourselves from the monotony of all areas of the city having streets that bear the names of political leaders of the recent past and current provenance.

More importantly, we had said that while not all British names were worthy of commemoration, some – at least names of those who were had done worthwhile service to the city – needed to be retained. In this context we had argued for the continuation of the names of officers of the Corporation such as J. Chartres Molony, J.R. Coats and J.W. Madeley. We had requested that the name of F.W. Ellis who had done such good work in the context of the Dravidian languages and on the Tirukkural be allowed to remain. We do not know if our entreaties had any impact but shortly after a list was published in these columns, the idea of renaming the streets was shelved. It has now resurfaced.
Recently, it was announced that Halls Road would henceforth be known as Tamil Salai. We do not know what the connection between the mother tongue and this road is. And while we do not wish to criticise what must be a decision arrived at after due deliberation, we cannot help wonder if any other State in India has a road named after its official language. Is this strictly necessary or is it even relevant? And does the language benefit in any way by this street renaming?

Our Corporation has admitted rather openly that more than half of its 132 announced promises are yet to be fulfilled. It is in the throes of a severe financial crisis partly owing to stagnation in revenues. Several infrastructural projects stand incomplete. Is this an appropriate time to start off on such cosmetic activities as name changes? Or is this just to divert public attention from non-delivery on key parameters?

What is interesting is also the number of enquiries that we as a publication have received asking if we propose to do anything about this name change. To this we can only say that apart from expressing our opinion we have no other intention to intervene. It is up to the residents of the roads that are to be renamed to protest or accept the change, for they are the real stakeholders. Only if that is forthcoming will our civic body stop such superficial activities and get down to grapple with its real problems.

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  1. Nandakumar says:

    ‘Barbers Bridge’ as the story goes started life as ‘Humberton’s Bridge but along the way with the passage of Time and a corruption of the name as spoken by the locals came to sound like “barber” in Tamil. From that point it was not long before the name was anglizised into “Barbers”.. Sounds far fetched but plausible and possibly probable.

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