Kalavai Venkat
Name streets after the highest bidder?


Narendra Modi has started renaming airports, streets, and projects that were hitherto named after Mahatma Gandhi or members of the Nehru dynasty. Quite admirable for nothing is more annoying than to see the photographs of the former (alleged) PM Manmolhan Singh and his handler Sonia Gandhi at every toll booth on a highway. It seems that Modi might rename streets and projects after admirable and exemplary luminaries such as Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Ayyankali, Narayana Guru, etc.

Why though?

I agree that these luminaries contributed immensely to Indian society and deserve to be recognized. Okay, name a few projects after them – one per head to be precise. Wouldn’t it make better economic sense to invite private parties and corporations to bid for naming an overwhelming majority of projects after the highest bidder?

Who gains when the highway connecting Chennai and Bengaluru is named NH4? Or even when it is named after an exemplary leader from a bygone era? On the other hand, if it were to be named the Microsoft Highway, after the highest bidder, it would bring huge revenue to the exchequer which could be invested in essential infrastructure projects. This idea could be extended to India’s ailing public schools, transportation, and hospitals to overhaul them.

Needless to say, criminals and frauds should be prevented from bidding. One could readily agree not to name a highway, airport, school, or hospital after an ISIS terrorist, the odious Mother Teresa, or India’s corrupt politicians even if their admirers are ready to place the highest bid. India could formulate a policy and guidelines to exclude such bidders. In all other cases, projects should be named after the highest domestic or international bidder.

Ironically, naming highways and airports after Vivekananda and Narayana Guru shuts out an important source of revenue. In that sense, figuratively speaking, a Vivekananda or Narayana Guru stands in the way of economic development