THE WEST Bengal government is once again planning to take up with the Centre the issue of changing the state’s name to resolve the problem being placed last “alphabetically”. The move, official sources said, comes after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s chance to speak at the Inter-State Council meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi earlier this month, came at the very end.
Sources in Nabanna, the state secretariat at Howrah, claimed that Mamata wants the word “West dropped from the state’s name”. She wants the state to be called either ‘Bangla’ or ‘Banga’, while Bengal could remain as the English name.
The demand for changing the state’s name due to alphabetical reasons is not new. In 2011, a consensus to rename West Bengal as Paschimbanga was reached at an all-party meeting and a decision was taken in the assembly “to raise the state’s position alphabetically”. Apart from the Trinamool Congress government, the Opposition parties, led by the CPM, at the time had also supported the move.
Prior to that, the previous Left Front government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had also raised the issue.
The reason, officials explained, was that at every state-level conclave, speakers from West Bengal were inevitably the last. “The speakers at the end tend to get less time to present their views. By the time our speakers actually get the opportunity to talk, every one is tired and the event gets wrapped up. quickly. This has been an issue faced by us for a long time,” said a state government official.
After the 2011 decision, the then joint secretary (Centre-State) in Ministry of Home Affairs, Suresh Kumar, had informed the state government that a Bill — West Bengal (Alteration of Name) Act, 2014 —would be tabled in Parliament, said officials. “However no action has been taken on this and the bill was never tabled in the House,” the official said.
In the recent Inter-State Council meeting, which began early in the morning and lasted till almost 7pm, Mamata was the last speaker. While other chief ministers got the opportunity to speak for considerable periods of time, officials said that Mamata got only around 10 minutes and was highly dissatisfied with the meeting. “The chief minister had wanted to communicate a number of issues to the Prime Minister. But this wasn’t the case. By the time, she got to speak every one was tired and no one was interested. By virtue of being the last state alphabetically, we have been continually discriminated against,” added the official.
Now, Mamata wants the state to be either called ‘Bangla’ or ‘Banga’. “This would allow the state to be one of the early speakers. The power to change the name of the state lies with the Centre. Previously other states such as Odisha have changed their name. We have been given instructions to pursue the matter immediately with the Centre,” added the official.