It’s Still Mil­len­nium Vil­lage

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Ra­jyas­ree Sen

On Tues­day, two days be­fore B R Ambed­kar’s birth an­niver­sary, the BJP-Manohar Lal Khat­tar gov­ern­ment de­cided to re­mem­ber Ambed­kar’s fight against casteism in the most novel pos­si­ble way: by re­nam­ing Gur­gaon to Gu­ru­gram, to re­mem­ber the man it was orig­i­nally named af­ter, Guru Dronacharya.

Now, this can be a tricky ges­ture po­lit­i­cally. For starters, Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pan­davas, re­fused to tu­tor Eklavya, leader of the Nishadha tribe, be­cause of the lat­ter’s low caste and the pos­si­ble po­lit­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions if he took him on as a dis­ci­ple. De­spite this, Eklavya taught him­self archery and con­sid­ered Dronacharya his guru.

To add in­jury to in­sult, when Drona re­alised that Eklavya was a bet­ter archer than Ar­juna, he asked Eklavya to cut off the thumb on his right hand and give it to him as guru dak­shina. This would en­sure that Ar­jun’s archery would be su­pe­rior to Eklavya’s. The Khat­tar gov­ern­ment has now de­cided to hon­our this casteist event by re­nam­ing Gur­gaon as Gu­ru­gram. As I said, it’s a great way to re­mem­ber Ambed­kar.

Ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial gazette, Gur­gaon’s ac­tual name is ‘Guru Ka Gram’, named so when the Pan­davas gifted the vil­lage to Drona. The name mor­phed into Gur­gaon thanks to a postal er­ror. Ac­cord­ing to T L Satyaprakash, the Gur­gaon deputy com­mis­sioner, he “framed the pro­posal based on the de­mand by city res­i­dents, RWAs, mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors and vil­lagers”.

This is my sec­ond bone of con­tention. I don’t re­mem­ber be­ing ap­proached for my opin­ion de­spite be­ing a res­i­dent of Gur­gaon for the last six years. It must be the darned postal of­fice again act­ing up. What has im­pressed me is the fo­cus of the gov­ern­ment and the mayor on see­ing through this name change.

Ac­cord­ing to Vi­mal Ya­dav, the mayor of Gu­ru­gram née Gur­gaon, “MCG [Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Gur­gaon] passed three res­o­lu­tions in two years to change the name of Gur­gaon to Gu­ru­gram. Gu­ru­gram goes well with the cul­ture of the city.” Ac­cord­ing to the deputy mayor, Par­min­der Kataria, they had even roped in “in­flu­en­tial peo­ple like Sak­shi Ma­haraj (BJP MP from Un­nao)” dur­ing the Gu­ru­gram Gau­rav move­ment in 2013.

They do love their gu­rus in Gu­ru­gram, that we must con­cede. From hav­ing a baba as a brand am­bas­sador to call a mur­der-ac­cused ‘ma­haraj’ an “in­flu­en­tial” per­son, up­hold­ing the mem­ory of Guru Dronacharya kind of makes sense.

For­get the ab­surd rea­son for re­nam­ing the city. What’s worse is that the gov­ern­ment and MCG don’t re­alise that Gur­gaon by any other name will still re­main Gur­gaon. We will still feel like we are liv­ing in a vil­lage. Yes, those of us in gated colonies are in­deed sur­rounded by green­ery (usual palms) and with 24-hour elec­tric­ity and wa­ter backup and se­cu­rity. But only when we stay cooped up in our con­do­mini­ums named af­ter Greek deities and French and Tus­can lo­cal­i­ties.

Step­ping out into Mil­len­nium City is like step­ping into Mad Max’s dusty, dirty, dry, law­less land, with the lo­cal thug Lal­lan Singh re­plac­ing Max. We have dug-up and pot­holed roads, al­most non-ex­is­tent wa­ter and elec­tric­ity and a crime rate like few oth­ers. There is no con­cept of safe pub­lic trans­port or reg­u­lar pub­lic trans­port — other than the metro, which once you get off, leaves you stranded.

There are prac­ti­cally no au­tos or buses. There are no side­walks. Women’s safety is an ex­cel­lent joke. Chain-snatch­ing, car­jack­ing, kid­nap­pings, theft at knife point, sex­ual ha­rass­ment of pedes­tri­ans and peo­ple us­ing pub­lic trans­port are par for the Gur­gaon non-golf course.

There are reg­u­lar re­ports of peo­ple shoot­ing each other in front of the most pop­u­lar and ‘elite’ shop­ping ar­eas, such as the one last year out­side Gal­le­ria mar­ket when a man was shot dead. Not to for­get the gang shoot-out that took place on M G Road out­side Beverly Park — a res­i­den­tial high-rise, not a park — lead­ing to mul­ti­ple car ac­ci­dents and a fa­tal­ity. Most roads do not have street lights and are un­safe for any­one to walk on.

And that’s the pain point. Name the city af­ter whomever you want, even if it’s a casteist mytho­log­i­cal char­ac­ter. But be­fore do­ing so, get the ba­sics right. The MCG and the Khat­tar gov­ern­ment should spend more time fo­cus­ing on what mat­ters to the peo­ple of Gu­ru­gram, yes, even us, the posh ones: paved roads, women’s safety, street lights, law and or­der. The money that will be spent in chang­ing sig­nages and pa­per­work could have been far bet­ter spent in im­prov­ing the cur­rent con­di­tions of Gur­gaon.

But that won’t get the Khat­tar gov­ern­ment or the MCG any bou­quets from the pow­ers that be or (non-gated colony res­i­den­tial) vot­ers. They’d rather waste re­sources on con­vert­ing Mil­len­nium City — a name that in it­self is an in­sult to other Mil­len­nium cities — to some Myth­i­cal City à la At­lantis.

What’s good to see is that the MCG and the Khat­tar gov­ern­ment are sim­ply fol­low­ing in the pop­ulist foot­steps of their cur­rent poster boy Guru Dronacharya. Where Drona re­ceived an ex­tra thumb for his mis­deeds, the Khat­tar gov­ern­ment may soon have many votes.

There goes the sig­nage

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