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Animals must be named properly

Updated on: 06 April,2024 04:56 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Lindsay Pereira |

It’s great that action is finally being taken against government officials who are lazy when it comes to naming conventions

Animals must be named properly

Maybe the people of the state in which animals reside should be given an opportunity to weigh in on what their names should be. This can turn out to be a delightful exercise if it is handled well. Representation pic

Lindsay PereiraI sometimes stay up at night, paralysed by fear, wondering what would happen to India if it weren’t for those brave people in the judiciary. They battle against tremendous odds, spend valuable hours of their lives trying to ensure that justice is served, and do this without any signs of gratitude from the rest of the country. There are no railway stations or cricket stadiums named after them, nor are their photographs stamped on birth certificates or Aadhaar cards to remind us of their constant dedication. And yet, they persevere, putting things right and making India better, one exhausting court case at a time.

The latest example of their commitment to fixing major problems for the rest of us came via a decision related to two lions. For those who missed the story, those animals were living in a zoo-cum-animal reserve somewhere in West Bengal. They had been given names that weren’t vetted by people presumably qualified to do these things, and the result was chaos after a few well-meaning nationalists found that the names were blasphemous. These intrepid patriots allegedly received complaints about hurt sentiments from across the country, which surprised me at first because I had no idea the lions were famous. Then again, I was probably uninformed because I don’t hang around with the right kind of people. I was grateful to the nationalists, of course, because it is only this kind of attention to detail that ensures our borders are safe and our culture is protected. It’s why foreign powers only encroach upon Indian territory when our nationalists are busy examining animals in zoos.

To cut an unnecessarily long story short, the Calcutta High Court stopped everything it was doing to address this urgent issue. It requested the government of West Bengal to consider renaming the animals, which made everyone happy. It was an act of judicial brilliance. Even better, a few days after this plea was heard in court, the Tripura government suspended a senior forest officer who was held responsible for coming up with the offensive name. The official was also asked not to leave his headquarters without obtaining prior permission from a competent authority. Some would argue that the sentence was harsh, given that rapists and murderers are routinely granted parole, and that some citizens accused of terrorism have been granted seats in Parliament, but I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. Who is to say that rape is more heinous than giving an animal the wrong kind of name?

However, even as I celebrated this outcome, a part of me thought about how unfair it was for the judiciary. I believe the government can do a lot to eliminate issues like these from cropping up in the future. This should also give the judiciary more time to focus on less pressing cases, such as bail applications for journalists held without trial. My proposed solution—and one I turn to repeatedly as a one-size-fits-all approach to most problems in India—is the creation of a government-supervised committee for the proper naming of all wild and domestic animals.

This committee can also create a pre-approved list of names based on specific historical figures and decide upon what kind of names ought to be used for a particular species. Do we name reptiles after politicians, for example, or domestic animals after film stars? Should we name birds after sportspeople? There are all kinds of thorny issues involved, but a committee staffed with intelligent graduates in, say, Entire Political Science, should be able to sort them out without too much of a fuss.

Another alternative is to introduce a more democratic approach to this whole naming convention. Maybe the people of the state in which these animals reside should be given an opportunity to weigh in on what their names should be. The people of Gujarat can then ensure that all lions in Gir forest are named after popular vegetarian snacks, while residents of Delhi can choose from names of ministers who have been asked to vacate official bungalows. The point is, this can turn out to be a delightful exercise if it is handled well.

What is most heartening is how this is a sign of progress. Only a country that understands how to prioritise the right issues will be able to face the future with confidence. It’s why I’m so sure that most other countries will be no match for the new, intelligent India we are evolving into. Today, lions; tomorrow, the world.

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira

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