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Friday , January 4 , 2013
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A library that labours on

Only a handful of readers visit Rukmani Bhavan Library (abive) in Hazaribagh. Pictures by Vishvendu Jaipuriar

No cash flow, dearth of members and inadequate infrastructure have spelt doom for Rukmani Bhavan in Hazaribagh

A treasure trove or story of apathy? Rukmani Bhavan Library in Hazaribagh town easily qualifies for both. What should have been preserved as a historic landmark, given its establishment way back in 1922, is now struggling for survival. Located opposite the Congress office, Rukmini Bhavan also enjoys the status of a state library as it is the only such facility in North Chotanagpur commissionerate comprising districts like Dhanbad, Giridih, Ramgarh, Koderma, Bokaro, Chatra and Hazaribagh. But all that is on paper. The library has over 40,000 books but very few readers, thanks to lack of facilities, two few members and no funds. VISHVENDU JAIPURIAR unravels the story of neglect

History: It started as a public library at Bari Bazaar in 1922. Years later, former Bihar chief minister Krishan Ballabh Sahay rechristened it as Rukmani Bhavan and donated the land opposite Congress office in mid-town where the library eventually shifted. The membership count, which was about 500 in the past, witnessed a sharp decline after 1985. There were about 60 members on rolls in 2004 with latest records pegging the tally at 65 members

The then Bihar government acquired Rukmini Bhavan in 1952 after it was decided that central libraries would be opened in every district of undivided Bihar. After the acquisition, the Bihar government constituted a committee, comprising deputy commissioner as its chairman and district superintendent of education as the secretary, to look after the library. Tall promises were made but the library has not received a single penny from the state government since 1980

Employees’ woes: There are four employees — president N.P Karan, library assistant Parasnath Singh, sweeper Hukum Mahto and security guard Hulas Kumar Rajak. And all are working for peanuts. While Karan and Parasnath get Rs 350 per month, Hukum and Rajak take home Rs 50 only. “The salaries of government employees were hiked at least more than four times in the past 25 years, but we were ignored. In 25 years, a constable becomes a sub-inspector but look at us, we are working for the same salary for so many years. And it’s not that we don’t have any work. According to a recent instruction, we have to open the library at 9am and shut at 5pm,” rued Karan, who has three daughters to marry off

Ray of hope: Case on the salary issue has been pending at Jharkhand High Court since 2000. The hapless employees are still carrying on their job with the hope that the court would bail them out. “We believe that the court will do justice to us. We did not leave this job in the hope that better days would come soon. And now we are too old to apply for any other job,” Karan said

Source of income: There does exist a membership charge of Rs 20 per month but the library in-charge complained that payments were not regular as most members stay away

Infrastructure: The state HRD department had provided four computers in 2008. But the computers are lying unused in absence of operators. Similarly, at least one dozen almirahs are required to store new books. In the absence of proper storage facilities, many expensive books are lying in the hall

AuthoritySpeak: District education officer Rajkumar Singh, who is the secretary of Rukmini Bhavan, promised to sort out the issues, except of course the salary part, in another two months. “This library is a storehouse of expensive books on various courses starting from medical to engineering to management. Lack of awareness and waning of interest in books among youngsters are to be blamed for the drop in members. However, I am trying to revive things by introducing free Internet facility,” he said.

As for funds, Singh said he had written to the administration, requesting it to transfer the rent that 15 shops, which do brisk business from the library premises, pay to municipal board to the library. “The money can be used to improve existing infrastructure. But my priority is to increase the existing manpower,” he added

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