‘Odisha’ it is – with sweets and shrugs!

Bhubaneswar, Nov 5: As the state formally changed its anglicised name of Orissa to Odisha, people distributed sweets, burst firecrackers and went about altering their letterheads and signboards Saturday. Some, though, shrugged it off with that old line – ‘what’s in a name’!

A few simply went on a weekend vacation to mark the occasion.

‘We are happy. The name of our state will now onwards be spelt properly,’ Raghunath Mohanty, a retired school teacher in state capital Bhubaneswar, told IANS.

‘Even if we knew the spelling of Orissa was wrong, we were forced to use it because there was no other way out,’ he said.

Mohanty woke up early and went to a painter to correct the signboard of his school. Like him, owners of shops and other commercial establishments made corrections to their letterheads and hoardings.

However, for journalist and social activist Rabi Das, such celebrations have no meaning.

‘It will not make any difference. Nobody has taken this change seriously. I don’t understand why the government is celebrating,’ he told IANS.

‘People are not celebrating because if you travel to our bordering districts you will find how Odia language has lost its impact,’ he added.

Schools, colleges, banks and government offices remained closed across the state as Saturday was declared a state holiday under the Negotiable Instruments Act to mark the historic occasion.

The celebrations started Friday night itself after news spread that President Pratibha Patil had given her assent to the bill to change the name and an amendment in the constitution to rename Oriya language as Odia.

The state secretariat in Bhubaneswar was decorated with lights and employees burst hundreds of firecrackers. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik came down to the ground floor from his chamber and distributed sweets to his council of ministers and others.

Patnaik was so overjoyed that he immediately wrote his first letter to the president expressing his deep gratitude. Orissa was replaced with Odisha in the letterhead he used.

‘We have just been informed of your historic decision. May I convey to you, Madam, the deep sense of gratitude of our people for the state to be known now as Odisha,’ Patnaik wrote in the letter.

Patnaik, who participated in the spectacular firecracker show in the secretariat, later told reporters: ‘It was the happiest moment for all of us. We have been demanding this since quite a long time.’

The Biju Janata Dal government led by Patnaik had approached the centre to amend the constitution after resolving in August 2008 to change the name of the state and the name of its official language.

The bill was waiting for the president’s assent after being passed by both houses of parliament.

However, several social and cultural organisations were using the name Odisha and Odia words for the past several years.

‘The spelling correction has enhanced our pride and our age-old culture,’ said Manoj Dash, managing editor of Odisha.com, the state’s first online Odia news site which has been operational since November 2004.

(Jatindra Dash can be contacted at jatindra.d@ians.in)