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By renaming 1,018 places, is Tamil Nadu govt reclaiming history or taking eye off Covid?

The Edappadi K. Palaniswami-led Tamil Nadu government has amended English spellings of 1,018 places to reflect their Tamil pronunciations.

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The Edappadi K. Palaniswami-led Tamil Nadu government has amended English spellings of 1,018 places to reflect their Tamil pronunciations. Coimbatore is now spelled Koyampuththoor, Vellore is now Veeloor, and Chennai’s Mylapore is now Mayilaappoor. The move is being criticised because it has been announced in the middle of a pandemic. Tamil Nadu has 17,659 active Covid-19 cases and over 349 deaths.

ThePrint asks: By renaming 1,018 places, is Tamil Nadu govt reclaiming history or taking eye off Covid?

Tamil Nadu govt has been able to tackle Covid crisis well. So it is pushing other projects in pipeline too

Kovai Sathyan
AIADMK Spokesperson

Tamil Nadu is the first state that is giving two face masks free to all ration-card holders. There are 17,433 beds available across private and government hospitals in Chennai and we are continuously setting up Covid-19 care centres and recently turned Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board building into a centre with about 1,400 beds. We also have made special arrangements for pregnant women from Covid-19 containment zones to be screened at primary health centres.

Therefore, it cannot be said that the Tamil Nadu government has taken its eye off the Covid-19 crisis. If anything, it has been able to tackle the crisis so well that other ministries and departments are continuing to follow through with projects still in the pipeline.

Just recently, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami inaugurated a major flyover that was a milestone infrastructure project. Likewise, changing the names of certain places in the state back to their original pronunciations is not new. It has been in the works for two years now and is finally being carried out. It is a sign that the state machinery is well-oiled and working and should not cast a shadow on the state government’s Covid response.

SC issued notice to Tamil Nadu on its poor Covid management. Renaming places is PR attempt to shift focus

Manuraj Shunmugasundaram
DMK spokesperson and advocate, Madras High Court

The renaming exercise is an ill-timed attempt to shift talks about the failures of the Tamil Nadu government in containing Covid-19. Recently, ThePrint, among other media outlets, highlighted the series of mishaps that led to Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai, becoming a coronavirus hotspot. There have been more than a thousand new cases each day for the last ten days. Only two months ago, in the middle of April, Chief Minister Palaniswami had said that we would see “nil cases” in a few days.

This tragic-comic situation is in character with the man who has led Tamil Nadu to its worst economic slowdown and now, its largest humanitarian-public health crisis. Only a few days ago, the State Secretariat, the seat of Palaniswami and his Cabinet, was declared a Covid hotspot. Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued a notice to Tamil Nadu on its “sorry state of affairs” of Covid management. Therefore, is it any surprise that Palaniswami has prayed for a public-relations miracle with the renaming exercise? He has grossly underestimated the memory and intelligence of the people living in Tamil Nadu.

The Tamils are proud of their language and are self-respecting people. I am confident that they will see through this poorly disguised ploy. It is now the duty of public health experts and media persons to not take their eyes off Palaniswami’s gross mismanagement of Covid-19.

Tamil Nadu govt not ‘renaming’ places but merely changing spelling to suit Tamil pronunciation

M Rajendran
Former Vice-Chancellor of Tamil University, Thanjavur

When regional names are mutilated in other languages, changing them back to their original form is considered a language development. This isn’t the first time Tamil Nadu has taken up an exercise like this. For example, Dalmiapuram was changed to Kallakudi when DMK leader Karunanidhi was in power. Similarly, Madras was changed to Chennai. Perhaps, this is not the appropriate time to change the names of not one or two, but over a thousand places.

It should also be noted that the Tamil Nadu government is not “renaming” these places but merely changing the written language to suit the Tamil pronunciation. It is often difficult to adapt to the nature of a language, in this case, Tamil, to another language or script, in this case, English. We need to ask a bigger question — how can Tamilians decide which letters should be used to write Tamil words in English? After all, we write Tamil Nadu as Tamil Nadu, not Thamizhnadu. This shows that there exist distinctions in spelling for each language and it’s difficult to ascertain which one is the ‘original’ or ‘right’ one.

When govts fail to solve basic problems of citizens, they opt for gestures such as changing names of places

Pramod Kumar Srivastava
Oral historian and former professor, Department of History, Lucknow University

Whenever governments fail to solve the basic problems of citizens, they opt for such gestures. It diverts the attention of the people. For example, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had changed Allahabad to Prayagraj and Faizabad to Ayodhya in November 2018. Yet, crime is rampant in the state and people’s welfare has not been tended to. What such leaders don’t realise is that changing the names, spellings or pronunciations cannot change the history of a place. Even New York, which was named by the British after the Duke of York, has not been changed after all these years.

Whether it’s Coimbatore, Pondicherry or Vellore, the Tamil Nadu government cannot erase the fact that the British Empire used these names for more than 200 years in order to make it easier for them to pronounce. However, changing the names of these places today is going to be an extremely laborious process for the state machinery and bureaucracy to execute. And even if they do execute this, tearing out pages from history does not erase the past. A taxpayer’s money can surely go towards something more constructive that will produce tangible results in people’s lives.

Also read: After Hindi, row over Sanskrit in Anna University: Is Tamil Nadu’s language politics dated?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. People who have lived all their lives in this great city will attest that something changed when Bombay became Mumbai. Not for the better, alas. Thoothookudi sounds almost like a term of endearment.

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