India vs Bharat: One man’s ego, a billion citizens at stake

As the Indian government increasingly embraces the name ‘Bharat’, the ramifications of such a shift are beginning to ripple across its vast majority of population.

For many, this move is seen as an embodiment of cultural and historical pride, a nod to the nation’s ancient roots and traditions. However, beneath this surface, there is growing concern among the populace, particularly the middle class, that this transition may carry with it unforeseen burdens.

With millions already grappling with the weight of direct and indirect taxes, some argue that this change is less about national identity and more about the ego of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

There is mounting apprehension that, without any benefits for the ordinary citizen, such a significant alteration might only further strain the wallets of the already overburdened middle-class population of the country.

A Costly Transition: From India to Bharat

Navigating the vast complexities of renaming a country is no small feat, and as India contemplates its transformation to ‘Bharat’, the potential pitfalls are becoming increasingly obvious. The high magnitude of the undertaking is staggering, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government facing what could be one of its most challenging logistical operations to date. In a nation steeped in history, but also racing towards the future, the implications of such a change promise to be far-reaching and tumultuous.

The Billion-Dollar Name Change

The financial implications alone are enough to give one pause. Initial estimates suggest that the transition could run into the billions of dollars. The cost of updating all embassy offices globally, changing stationery across every government and private sector, reprinting stamp papers, and the colossal task of introducing new currency notes (since the current ones bear the name ‘India’) is bound to be eye-popping. The expenditure does not stop there. Consider the modifications required in international treaties, adjustments in global trade agreements, and countless other administrative changes, and the expenses quickly compound.

It’s not just about the money, but where it could be better allocated. At a time when India’s healthcare system has faced unprecedented challenges, with its infrastructure collapsing under the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the funds required for the ‘Bharat’ transition could be channeled into bolstering this ailing sector.

Similarly, investment in the nation’s education infrastructure, which is instrumental in shaping its future, would have far-reaching benefits for the populace. One can’t help but ponder the opportunity cost of such an endeavor and whether the nation’s priorities could be better focused elsewhere.

 BJP’s Rocket: Risking Political Fallout

The ambitious endeavor to transition from the name ‘India‘ to ‘Bharat’ appears to be similar to the BJP government launching a rocket high into the sky. While the intent might be to reach new heights, there’s an undeniable risk: the rocket could burst mid-air, sending shockwaves that echo across the nation’s political landscape. As India approaches its next national elections, the BJP, currently the dominant party, might find itself dealing with the consequences of a decision that has both deep cultural implications and a potential for unforeseen political fallout.

 The Weight of History: Structures, Monuments, and Scripts

The complications aren’t merely financial or political; they touch the very fabric of India’s rich history. Iconic landmarks that have stood as testaments to the nation’s past, like the India Gate or the Gateway of India, may seem out of context or lose some of their historical importance with a name change. The vast network of the Indian Railways, a lifeline for millions and a symbol of India’s industrial growth, would also face an identity crisis. How would these monuments and institutions be recontextualized in a nation named Bharat? It’s a question that adds another layer of complexity to the issue.

 A Moonshot

Perhaps the most striking comparison comes when one considers the costs associated with this renaming initiative. Preliminary figures indicate that the expenditure for this transition might even eclipse the budget for the Chandrayaan 3, India’s ambitious moon mission. Unlike the moon mission, which seeks to further scientific understanding and technological advancement, the name change does not promise any good benefits for the average Indian citizen.

Many perceive it as a grand political gesture, a move that might be more about optics and less about the well-being of its people.

A Cascade of Administrative Challenges

At the core of this transformation lies a colossal administrative task, which promises to keep every section of the Indian government on its toes. A prominent example lies in the unassuming blue booklet carried by millions – the Indian Passport. Every such passport prominently displays ‘Indian Passport’ on its cover. To align with the new national identity, an entire redesign of this crucial document would be necessitated.

Introducing a new layout for the passport is not merely about a name change on its cover. The entire logistical backbone, from printing to distribution, would need a revamp. It would require massive infrastructure investments, both in terms of technology and physical assets.

Furthermore, it would necessitate the mobilization of an army of personnel to handle the distribution, collection, and updating of old passports. With the term ‘Indian Citizen’ gracing numerous visas, other countries might face challenges in identification and validation. A collaborative effort would be needed between India and other nations to ensure the smooth processing of travel documents during this transition phase.

Rethinking Personal Identification

The flow of effect continues as one considers other critical identification documents. Driving licenses, voter ID cards, Aadhar cards (the country’s primary identification system), and numerous other documents would all need updates to reflect the new national identity.

This exercise would not just be about changing the name; it would be about updating databases, informing the public, ensuring there’s no lapse in services, and managing the inevitable administrative bottlenecks. As the magnitude of this undertaking becomes clearer, one realizes that the name change represents just the tip of a vast administrative iceberg.

 Treasure Hunt for Corporates

Experts warn of a different kind of fallout behind the curtains of this mammoth task, there lies an opportunity for large-scale corporate entities to garner significant profits. The sheer volume of work – encompassing printing, updating, and managing a myriad of administrative tasks – represents a rewarding prospect for big businesses.

The estimation gaining traction is that companies closely aligned with the government stand to gain the most from this transition. With contracts potentially worth billions at stake, there’s growing concern that the spoils of this undertaking might be concentrated in the hands of a few, strategically arranged multinationals.

This perception, whether grounded in reality or not, underscores the need for transparency in how the government manages and allocates these tasks. If not handled judiciously, it might further exacerbate concerns over crony capitalism and the equitable distribution of national resources.

Debating ‘India’: Historical Roots or Colonial Legacy

Recent statements from several leaders of the BJP suggest that the name ‘India‘ is a trace of British colonization, hinting at a need to revert to more indigenous origins. However, this perspective has faced pushback from historians and scholars who resist that the name ‘India’ has roots that reach far deeper than the British Rule. These historians argue that the term “India” has been used in various forms, like “Indica” or “Indus”, for millennia, long before the British set foot on the subcontinent.

The Role of English: A Lingua Franca or Colonial Hangover

The debate doesn’t stop at the name. Delving deeper into India’s post-independence journey, we find English holding a pivotal position. Article 348(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution specifies English as the language for all proceedings in the Supreme Court and every High Court, a choice that some might argue mirrors the country’s colonial past. Yet, like the name ‘India’, English has evolved in the nation, becoming more than just a colonial remnant; it is a bridge connecting various linguistic communities and facilitating global interactions.

Railways, English, and the British Legacy: Where to Draw the Line

Drawing upon this discourse, one can’t help but consider other significant contributions by the British, most notably the railways. Established primarily by the East India Company, the vast network of railways has since become the backbone of the nation’s transport system.

As India grapples with its past, it raises pertinent questions about selective acceptance and erasure. Would a pursuit to destroy all leftovers of colonial influence mean discarding the English language? Or dismantling the railway tracks that crisscross the nation? Such drastic measures might be symbolic, but they would also disrupt the very fabric of modern Indian society. As India navigates its identity, it must tread carefully, balancing reverence for its past with the practicality of the present.

A Question of Cost and Identity

The looming question is whether this rebranding, symbolizing a departure from its internationally recognized identity, will merely drain valuable resources in a manner suggestive of past initiatives. The demonetization drive of 2016, touted as a groundbreaking economic reform, ended up consuming a significant amount of taxpayers’ money. Yet, its aftermath showed a lack of benefits and left many questioning the true cost of such a drastic move.

In the same vein, while a name change seeks to symbolize a nation’s pride and identity, it must not lose sight of the practical and fiscal consequences. If the transition from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’ ends up mirroring the financial strain of demonetization without yielding solid advantages, the country might once again find itself facing the complex interplay of identity, progress, and the prudent allocation of public funds.

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