Delhi’s Race Course Road became Lok Kalyan Marg on Wednesday, but historians and urban planners are not happy.
Urban planning expert AGK Menon called the renaming of Race Course Road ‘unnecessary’.
“Some names have a loaded cultural perspective, for example, the conversion of Aurangzeb Road to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road. People thought he was an evil ruler and as don’t want to be associated with a tyrant. Another aspect of the renaming of the road was to Hinduise the city,” Menon said.
The name, Race Course Road, however, does not carry any cultural baggage, he said. The road was named after Delhi’s only race course in the city.
“The only purpose that is served by this road being renamed is a sense of accomplishment among politicians. There are many layers of history to a city and names of places are a symbol of these layers, which should not be erased,” Menon added.
Many others too questioned the decision to change the road’s name.
Historian Sohail Hashmi said that if the government wants to work towards ‘lok kalyan’ (public welfare), then they should build new roads instead of renaming the existing ones.
“What ‘lok kalyan’ is the government doing by taking credit for the name of a road which was not even built by them? The worst part is that there is no thought behind the renaming these roads,” Hashmi said.
Other roads in central Delhi that were renamed in the past include Curzon Road to Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Irwin Road to Baba Kharak Singh Marg, King Edward Road to Maulana Azad Road and Kingsway to Rajpath.
The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) officials said that proposals to rename roads can be considered and acted upon at the discretion of the council.
However, minister of state for home Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary had told the Lok Sabha on April 21 that such decisions are governed by ministry of home affairs guidelines (1975). The guidelines read that changes in names of streets create confusion for post offices and the public, and deprive people of a sense of history.
Historian Swapna Liddle said, “Race Course is one of the landmarks of the city. Road names show us how a city was built and tell us what its landmarks were.”