Adhir slams brakes on Mamata name game

The railways have slammed the brakes on former minister Mamata Banerjee's name game and decided to christen a new halt station after the place and not a person.

The facility at New Garia that will connect Kavi Subhash (Metro station) with the local train network will be called New Garia, Adhir Chowdhury, the new minister of state for railways, has confirmed to Metro.

Mamata had wanted to call it Ambedkar station and her successor Mukul Roy had announced it would be named Pranavananda, after the founder of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha.

But the station will be called New Garia when Chowdhury throws it open on Monday. "With all due respect to great men, I believe naming railway stations after them only adds to the confusion of ordinary commuters," Chowdhury said on Wednesday. "Who would have understood where Pranavananda (station) was?"

As railway minister, Mamata Banerjee had sparked a naming and renaming spree and then passed on the baton to Mukul Roy. All of a sudden, the ever-so-familiar Tollygunge became Mahanayak Uttam Kumar and names of Baba Lokenath and Kishore Kumar cropped up for upcoming stations.

Chowdhury suggested that the railways would take a second look at all such names. "We are trying to find out ways to rename the stations according to their locations so that people can easily identify them," he said.

Sources in the railways said that if Chowdhury wished to simplify the Metro station names, he could do it without a hitch since they had been renamed without any formal clearance from the Union home ministry.

Had the railways followed the norms, it would have had to send the proposals to the state government for approval. The state government would have had to forward the proposal to the ministry of home affairs in Delhi along with its opinion. Delhi would then send it to the surveyor-general to check the relevance of the name.

"However, as Mamata Banerjee went on renaming the stations after great men, no such procedure was followed. Metro Railway was never notified by the Union home ministry about any change of name. It was done at the instance of the ministers directly. Hence, if the new minister now wants to bring back the original names, he can do it easily," said a senior railway official in Delhi.

A fierce critic of Mamata, Chowdhury plans to run a survey and decide whether to retain the new names. "For the names that have already been changed, I need to check if the procedures were followed. For the new ones, we will stick to the place names," he said.

The random change in names, often in places that have no association with the person ' like Kavi Nazrul (Garia Bazaar), Masterda Surya Sen (Bansdroni) and Netaji (Kudghat) ' have spelt trouble for unsuspecting commuters (see chart).

After Metro ran a campaign highlighting the trouble with such names, Metro Railway had introduced the place names in brackets at some stations and announced them on trains. The rulebook does not allow a station to have two names but the confusion forced the authorities to bend the norm.

"I still struggle to figure out which station I need to get down at by looking at the charts on the trains. It is so much easier if the naming is done according to the locality," said Soumik Bag, who lives in Garia. Bag, a professional photographer, is a regular Metro commuter and has to get down at Shahid Khudiram (Birji).

Insurance adviser Payel Ganguly said "kudos to Chowdhury if he can actually restore the real names".

If the junior railway minister has his way, Kalighat will not become Shahid Bhagat Singh or Maidan Gostho Pal.