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Readers bear brunt of library agitat ion

An agitation by a section of National Library employees has kept readers away from books on the Alipore premises for over a week.

About 50 employees have either stayed off work or are going slow to protest the demotion of 34 employees after they were promoted, allegedly in violation of rules.

Most of the agitating employees are responsible for serving readers.

“It took me more than an hour to get a book at the reading room. Nothing was moving there,” said Arup Das, who is doing his B.Ed from Calcutta University.

Supriya Chatterjee, a third-year student, requisitioned two books on modern Indian history around 1pm. “Around 2.30pm, I was told that the books were not available,” she said. According to a library official, the process should not have taken more than half an hour.

“Readers are being harassed as most of the 34 demoted employees are attached to the reading room and the stacks and have joined the movement demanding immediate reversal of the order,” added the official.

Library director K.K. Banerjee said he was aware of the agitation by the employees. “I have not received any complaint that readers are facing harassment. I cannot tolerate inconvenience of readers.”

Banerjee, in an order (No. 1135 of 2008-2009), reverted the 34 employees, promoted in batches by former director Sudhendu Mondal in 2007, to their former posts with effect from January 28.

“The employees were promoted violating guidelines. I cannot allow illegal activities in the library and that’s why the employees were demoted,” said Banerjee.

Santanu Bhowmick, the general secretary of the CPM-backed National Library Employees Association, said: “We will continue our agitation until our demands are met. The demotion is part of a downsizing programme of the government and we are against it.”

He refused comment on being asked about harassment of readers.

A reader pointed out that work at a snail’s pace is not new at National Library. “The recent agitation has only made things worse.”

A team of the board of management, which operates under the Union culture ministry, visited the library last year and identified poor work culture as the biggest challenge before the 60-year-old institute of national importance.

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