Rare Books Go Missing from Pre-Independence Rajasthan Library
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Pexels
The Bhavani Parmanand Library within the Government College at Jhalawar in Rajasthan has a history that goes back to before Independence. It was set up by Raja Bhawani Singh, the ruler of the state from the Jhala Rajput dynasty in 1911. The library was named after the Diwan of the state, Parmananad Chaturvedi. In 1946, the library was handed over to the local college.
In recent days, reports of precious and rare books going missing have caused consternation among local people. The local tourism development committee has written a letter to the district administration to institute a probe and recover the books.
Over 1,000 books were reported missing by Hindi daily, Dainik Bhaskar, 97 of these were texts of historical importance. A team from Bundi college had been allotted the task of auditing the collection at the library, and it was this team that discovered that there was a huge discrepancy between the catalogue of the library and the books that could be accounted for.
The library records a collection of 50,602 books; a comparison of the stock at the library showed that several books on the records were not found even among books issued out to members.
Om Pathak, who leads the 11-member citizens’ tourism development committee that has taken up this matter with district authorities said: “The librarian who served earlier told me that an annual auditing process was undertaken quite strictly earlier. We do not know how long that process has been neglected.” Pathak leads an 11-member citizens group that has been working for the past 22 years to conserve historically significant buildings and objects in the city and educate the young about local history.
Librarian PD Gupta retired a year ago after serving for 20 years, and there has been no recruitment of a regular librarian in his place since then.
Many rare books in this library are no longer in print and replacing missing books would be impossible, the committee warned local authorities. There are books embossed in gold, the letter writers have pointed out, adding that this is over and above the literary and historical value of many of these books.
Although it might seem like the current political crisis in the state might be deflecting attention from the theft, observers say such cases of neglect and loss of heritage items is not unprecedented.
Sunny Sebastian, who studied library science and served as former vice chancellor of the Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication in Jaipur said: “Bhavani Parmanand Library is not an exceptional case of neglect. In Jaipur, the city’s oldest library, the state-run Maharaja Public Library on Chaura Rasta in the Walled City is in a state of gross neglect. It is a repository of rare books, about 1.25 lakh books in Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Urdu and some 330 rare handwritten manuscripts, yet the number of visitors has been dwindling.”
He pointed out that the Dr Radha Krishnan State Central Library, too, has been long neglected, and not far from it, the Rajasthan University’s Central Library, with a rich collection, is grossly underutilised.
“During his first term as chief minister from 1998-2003, Ashok Gehlot had tried to streamline public libraries in the state and start a library movement, like the one in Kerala. However, that movement did not gather steam,” he added.
This is also not the first time that objects of antique value have gone missing from a public institution in the state. In 2005-06, during Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vasundhara Raje’s first term as chief minister, expensive carpets of historical value from Iran, which were at the Khasa Kothi Hotel of the state tourism development corporation in Jaipur, were taken on rent by the chief minister’s office. Later, there was no trace of these carpets and the rent on them too remained unpaid. An officer on special duty at the chief minister’s office was among those named in this case.
An FIR (first information report) was filed in the matter after the Congress came to power in the state in 2008, but police made no headway. The cost of the missing carpets was estimated at several crores of rupees.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
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