Saptarshi Mukherjee could not believe his eyes when he entered National Library on Tuesday afternoon. Wherever he looked he saw parked buses and groups of people.
“The compound was barely recognisable,” said the 30-year-old, a regular at the library for over a decade, on his way to the reading room in Bhasha Bhavan.
The abode of books bore tell-tale marks of ill-treatment a day before Calcutta was to go to polls. The line of parked buses snaked around the entire compound.
Most of the vehicles were parked on the road around the main building and in front of the canteen. Vehicles on poll duty took up the lion’s share of space on the parking lot as well.
Heaps of soils, dug up to plant bamboo polls in the ground, dotted the lawn in front of the main building.
The walk from the main gate to the main building was littered with plastic cups, packaged drinking water bottles and food wrappers. Piles of rubbish lay in various places on the campus. The largest piles were near the food stalls that had been set up on the campus.
National Library employees, too, have set up some stalls. The director of the library, K.K. Banerjee, said action was being taken against them.
Streams of poll personnel dropped in throughout the day to collect electronic voting machines and other poll material.
“It is not proper for the election commission to take over National Library. It does not happen anywhere else in the world,” said retired professor Ardhendu Mukherjee, who has been a member of the library for 54 years.
The constant sound of vehicles and thousands of people talking, announcements on the microphones and the beeps of electronic voting machines got to Saptarshi.
“A library is a place for readers and must have proper atmosphere. National Library, which is usually calm and quiet, has suddenly become very noisy. It is very annoying,” he said.
Chief electoral officer Debashis Sen went on a whirlwind tour of the library at 5pm. Microphones were not being used when he was in the compound but the mess was there for him to see.
“He was at the library to supervise the arrangements and assess the situation. He was very satisfied with what he saw. The chief electoral officer makes such visits as they go a long way in boosting the morale of those working for the elections,” the returning officer of Calcutta South, B.P. Gopalika, told Metro.
Sen, who was shown around by Gopalika, walked through a carton-filled room from which electronic voting machines and stationery were being distributed for booths in the Bhowanipore Assembly constituency (No. 159) while poll personnel were having their meal.
“We requested the election commission to make sure that the place wasn’t dirtied but no measure was taken. They have not even kept dustbins. More toilets were needed,” said Saibal Chakraborty, the general secretary of the National Library Staff Association.
“I wonder if the place will look the same after the whole election is over,” said Saptarshi.