As India gears up to host the G20 Summit 2023 in New Delhi later this week, it has emerged that President Droupadi Murmu sent out official invitation for G20 dinner under the name 'President of Bharat' instead of President of India, as is the convention.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to an outcry from the Opposition with Congress leader Jairam Ramesh even claiming that Article 1 in the Constitution is now under assault. Article 1 in the Indian Constitution begins: “India, that is Bharat, is a 'Union of States'…”.
Assam Chief Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sharma soon noted on social media platform X, “REPUBLIC OF BHARAT – happy and proud that our civilisation is marching ahead boldly towards AMRIT KAAL.” The President’s new designation might just be a sign of further changes that could take place in the coming weeks. This leaves many to wonder about the cost that the country will have to bear to officially change its name.
According to several reports, a resolution to rename India officially as Bharat is likely to be taken up in the upcoming special session of the Parliament. Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi had announced on August 31 that a special session of the Parliament will be convened from September 18 to 22.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat later informed that the special session would skip question hour, zero hour, and private members’ business leading to criticism from Opposition parties.
If the Centre goes ahead and introduces a resolution to rename the country as Bharat, it will also be seen as a political dig at the Opposition parties that have joined hands under the name INDIA. The Opposition alliance Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) consists of 26 participating parties wo will contest the 2024 General Elections as an alliance.
As the central government is likely to move ahead with the renaming resolution soon, the costs associated with such a practice are worth looking at. Inspite of several cities and towns in India have been renamed in the recent past, the renaming of a country of 1.4+ billion people will come at a significant cost.
Although renaming of a country or a province might seem like a superficial exercise, it involves changes at hyperlocal, district, state, national and international levels. This makes it a time-consuming and expensive affair that will require coordination from various public and private bodies, in addition to the perceptive change that will have to be made at the individual citizen level.
The complexity of such an exercise will be multifold for a country like India which is not just the most populous country in the world, but also one of the most diverse nations with a myriad of cultures, languages and ethnicities residing within its physical boundaries.
Earlier this year, the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra was renamed to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar. At the same time, Osmanabad in Maharashtra was rechristened to Dharashiv.
In 2016, the Haryana state government had renamed the planned city of Gurgaon as Gurugram. Similarly, the city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh underwent name change to Prayagraj in 2018. As per government estimates, the renaming of Allahabad cost the state government upwards of Rs 300 crore, India Today had reported earlier, citing sources in the government’s finance department.
Some of the cost would be incurred in activities such as updating the maps, road navigation system, highway landmarks, official paraphernalia used in state and civic authority offices, etc. This is in addition to the expenses to be borne by private businesses, corporate houses and non-governmental institutions in the city or state that undergoes a name change.
India is not the first country to consider a change in its official name. Such changes have been witnessed world over for various reasons such as improving administrative efficacy, removing colonial vestiges or to signal a change in the form of government.
India’s southern neighbour Sri Lanka underwent a name change way back in 1972 but it took the island nation close to four decades to purge its earlier name ‘Ceylon’ from all government use.
In 2018, the monarch of Swaziland renamed the country to Eswatini in an apparent bid to get rid of colonial connotations. Back then, an intellectual property lawyer based in South Africa came up with a method to calculate the cost of renaming a country. Darren Olivier compared the renaming of the African nation to a rebranding exercise at a large corporate to arrive at the estimated cost.
According to Olivier, the average marketing cost of a large enterprise is around 6 per cent of its total revenue. Rebranding exercises, in turn, cost up to 10 per cent of the company’s overall marketing budget. His estimates put the cost of renaming Swaziland to Eswatini at $60 million.
If a similar model is applied to India’s case, the resultant cost is a huge amount. For the fiscal ended 2023, India's revenue receipts was Rs 23.84 lakh crore, including tax and non-tax revenue. Olivier included both revenue streams in his model for estimating the cost of Swaziland's renaming.
Applying the same formula with India's revenue, one arrives at an estimated cost of Rs 14,304 crore to rename India to Bharat. For perspective, the Centre spends close to Rs 14,000 crore every month on its food security programme that feeds 80 crore Indians.
Whether the central government is serious about going ahead with the name changing exercise will become clear at the upcoming special session of the Parliament. For now, we know that foreign head of states will attend G20 official dinner with the President of Bharat.
The G20 Summit, scheduled to be held September 9-10 at the Bharat Mandapam in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, will witness participation from US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Australian PM Anthony Albanese, Japan PM Fumio Kishida and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, among other world leaders.
Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping will skip the G20 Meeting and Chinese Premier Li Qiang will attend in his place.