Members of the Nehru-Gandhi family are all over the country. dna has found that there are 441 schemes and places named after them, right from the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden in Kashmir to the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Kerala.
Will the Narendra Modi-led NDA government change the names of numerous schemes and projects named after members of India's first political family? There are indications that it may happen. In his first decision after taking over on Wednesday, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu decided to scrap the National Urban Renewal Mission named after India's first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru. Also, two senior Union ministers – Naidu and civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju - said the demand to rename Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi Airport after former Andhra Pradesh CM NT Rama Rao is justified.
Of the 58 central government schemes, 17 worth Rs2 lakh crore are named after members of the Nehru-Gandhi family. As many as 10 schemes are named after former PM, the late Rajiv Gandhi. Only one scheme is named after Mahatma Gandhi while other tall leaders like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of India's Constitution, and 'Iron Man' Sardar Patel have been deprived of the honour.
It is a worldwide tradition to name roads and buildings after leaders of stature and former presidents and PMs to acknowledge their contribution. However, experts pointed out that in India, the naming tradition is linked to patronage and reflects the sycophantic culture prevailing in Indian politics.
From a breakfast scheme named after Rajiv Gandhi in Pondicherry to the cultural wing of the Indian High Commission in Mauritius named after Indira Gandhi, members of the Nehru-Gandhi family are everywhere – from central and state schemes to sports facilities, trophies, awards, scholarships, fellowships, power plants, educational institutions and geographical positions.
Author A Surya Prakash, who had in 2009 petitioned the Election Commission in connection with this naming spree, said he is waiting for the new government to settle down and take up the issue rigorously. "I am not against the Nehru-Gandhis, but the government has the responsibility of honouring other heroes too. Clearly, the schemes and projects have been named after three members of this family disproportionately," he told dna.
Among the many things Prakash is referring to are the four major geographical landmarks which have been named after members of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Indira Point, the southern-most point of India in Kanyakumari, was formerly known as Pygmalion Point. A tri-junction of India-China-Pakistan border is called Indira Col. Mount Rajiv is a peak in the Himalayas and Butcher Island in Mumbai Harbour is now called Jawahar Deep.
Among the programmes, the UPA government's flagship rural electrification programme worth Rs28,000 crore was named after Rajiv Gandhi. The drinking water mission with a budgetary outlay of Rs21,000 crore was also named after Sonia Gandhi's husband. The housing programme for rural population and the old age pension scheme are named after his mother, Indira Gandhi.
Among the central government programmes involving huge outlay of public funds over the last two decades are the Jawaharlal Nehru Rozgar Yojana and the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. The Rozgar Yojana, which was later metamorphosed into the Jawaharlal Gram Samruddi Yojana and the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, was meant to provide employment to millions of unemployed citizens. The Union government proposed to spend Rs62,000 crore over seven years on the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.