After Allahabad and Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh were recently renamed by the Yogi Adityanath-led government as Prayagraj and Ayodhya, the demand to change the name of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, has also emerged. A BJP lawmaker from the city wants Agra to be renamed as "Agravan" or "Agrawal".
But for the people of Agra, the proposal is not welcome.
The ruling BJP has justified the name changes across Uttar Pradesh saying they are merely restoring older names and correcting historical distortions.
BJP lawmaker Jagan Prasad Garg, who represents the Agra North constituency, said, "Agra has no meaning. You check the name Agra anywhere, what relevance does it have? Earlier, there used to be a lot of forests here. And people from the Agarwal community used to live here. So the name should be Agra-van or Agra-wal."
While critics and historians have frowned at the idea, the citizens of Agra say they want development and a name change can't promise that.
In a city with UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, those from the tourism industry fear they will be the worst affected.
Sandeep Arora, President of Agra Tourism Development Foundation, said, "It has taken us several years to market the Taj Mahal using the name Agra. Now will we say we are from Agrawal? All our hard work will turn into dust overnight. It sounds like demonetisation to me."
He added that if changing a name brings development, then we should "change the name of the PM's home from 7 Race Course Road to White House and rupee and dollar will become equal".
Shailendra Garg, member of the Agra Hotel Association, said, "It is impractical. Changing names is not that easy. How do they expect us to change the names in each and every itinerary overnight?"
The traders association says there will be huge monetary losses.
"It will cost about Rs 800 crore to change the name on all hoardings and banners. This surely can't lead to development," said Brajesh Pandit, who runs a travel company.
Shabana Khandelwal, a resident of Agra and member of the Censor Board, said, "The focus should be on developing Agra as a better tourist destination and enhancing the infrastructure. A name change is not going to reduce the garbage on the streets or fill the potholes."
The youngsters want jobs and opportunities. Renaming of cities won't help them, said CP Joshi, a social worker. "They want educational and employment opportunities. No point dividing people over caste and community lines. This city is famous for the Taj Mahal, a symbol of love. If they really want to go for a name change, they can call it the city of love," he said.
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