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Dust on lawns before Singh show Scholars fume at library closure

Calcutta, Jan. 11: A temple of scholarship would be made out of bounds for those who frequent the place because the Prime Minister, himself a scholar of repute, would be in its haloed precinct.

National Library authorities said services would be suspended for four hours from 9 am tomorrow because of the Prime Minister's visit.

Manmohan Singh is scheduled to inaugurate the three-day Partnership Summit 2005, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, on the library lawns in the morning.

A CII spokesperson revealed that National Library was selected as the venue after lengthy deliberations. 'We were looking for a venue that goes with the image of Calcutta and explored a host of options like Eden Gardens and the Salt Lake Stadium,' he said.

'Finally, the steering committee for the event ' headed by chief secretary Asok Gupta ' chose the landmark on Alipore Road.'

Though the apex industry body is not paying the library, it has got a portion of the historic building painted and the campus cleaned up.

The National Library authorities are apparently happy with the arrangements. 'They have been very cooperative. The director of the library is a member of the steering committee. The library authorities think that the event will help them showcase the place to a larger audience,' the CII spokesperson said.

He added that the partnership summit in Hyderabad was held in Nizam Palace and Teen Murti Bhavan in Delhi is being used as the venue for the inaugural ceremony of World Economic Forum.

Home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, who was aware of the decision to suspend services, said: 'We have nothing to do regarding this. The Prime Minister's security is monitored entirely by the Special Protection Group and we act according to its instructions.'

The decision to withdraw services has stunned readers.

Chaitali Dutta, who has used the library for over 15 years, called the decision 'unprecedented'. She said: 'Surely the authorities could have made arrangements without disturbing the readers. Four hours from 9 is peak time and I believe many readers will suffer.'

Like Chaitali, Goutam Bhadra, a regular, was unhappy. 'Over 300 patrons use the reading rooms every day. The closure is unnecessary.' Another reader reminded that the programme on the lawns had nothing to do with everyday work.

Some of them tried in vain to meet library director Sudhendu Mandal to protest against the closure decision.

It was not known whether Singh, a former professor of Delhi School of Economics and Jawaharlal Nehru University, approved of the library shutdown.

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