Raje govt to pull down Information Centre, library to build IT Fun City
Vasundhara Raje govt is determined to privatise or sell state properties, before state elections. The latest in the list is the Information Centre at Jaipur, which will be replaced by an IT Fun City
Vasundhara Raje government seems determined to privatise, sell or demolish government properties before the elections. The latest in the list is the Information Centre at Jaipur. Chief minister Vasundhra Raje announced that an IT Fun City–where virtual reality and augmented reality would be showcased–would replace the Information Centre.
This move of the Raje government has many citizens up in arms. The Opposition Congress has been opposing this move of the Raje government but the state government seems determined to proceed.
Congress state chief Sachin Pilot said, “An IT Fun City is hardly a life-and-death matter. The chief minister should not demolish any building during the rest of her term. She must allow the next elected government to take a decision in this matter. The books and newspaper files stored in the Information Centre are a valuable resource. The space itself can be put to better use. Why pull it down?”
According to unofficial sources, the government has been planning to shift the Information Centre to a government school in Gandhi Nagar, but the Centre has not received any letter or been informed about it.
This 12,000 sq feet building at the entrance to Diggi Palace, is the venue of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival. The Centre was inaugurated in 1968 by the then President Zakir Husain. When it was first set up in 1959, the Information Centre operated out of a space in a public library in Jaipur’s walled city.
A retired government officer who has been using this Centre for many decades, Ashok Khandlewal said this was a bad decision. “Demolishing places of intellectual and historical importance is not the right way to go. It is an important centre of information and knowledge. There is no reason why the government should shift it. We will oppose this, there are so many places where this IT Hub can be made,” said Khandlewal.
Shifting this Centre will ruin it; so many materials are fragile, especially the newspapers. We have more then 7000 files and more than 63,000 books. More than 200 visitors come here each day, many from poor families just looking for a quiet space to study
Another regular visitor to the library, Ravi Jain, a businessman, said, “We would like to approach the court to prevent the demolition.”
This building houses the busts of over 30 freedom fighters from the state. The government has not issued any written orders. “We have no documents, so have nothing to produce in court. The whole demolition is being carried out in what we in local parlance called ‘Rathodi’ –ramming something through regardless of opposing voices. We do not wish to lose this precious resource. More than 200 visitors come here each day, many from poor families just looking for a quiet space to study. There are 60,000 books of archival value in the library and newspaper files that date back to 1959. It will be impossible to move all this material elsewhere without damaging it,” said Jain
A senior staff member, seeking anonymity, said, “Shifting this Centre will ruin it; so many materials are fragile, especially the newspapers. We have more then 7000 files and more than 63,000 books. The old newspaper files are in the basement and have not been kept in an ideal atmosphere. There is no air conditioning, when it rains, the whole place gets damp. We battle termites. We have sought that the newspapers be digitised for easier access to researchers. We had estimated that the whole collection could be digitised at about Rs 4 crore. Funds were never sanctioned. If the whole collection is now moved, we are concerned this material will be lost if conditions for storage are not ideal.”
One reader, Kamal, who said he did not use a second name, said, “Some months ago, a researcher from Italy spent about three months here. She was studying newspapers in India. When she was here, she interacted with students, readers and learnt basic Hindi. This space offers us the chance to read and interact with a range of visitors and expand our horizons. The government has funds for IT – it could use some of those to digitise the collection and preserve it for posterity, instead of demolishing a building that is actually quite sturdy and serves such a fine purpose.”
Over 175 students have submitted a petition to the government seeking that the space not be destroyed for the ‘IT Fun City’. The building also has a meeting area. “We can hold meetings and screen films. It is ideal for poetry reading sessions, for talks by historians and sociologists. There is so much that could be done in this space. It is unfortunate the government is considering demolition, when there are just a few months that now remain in its tenure,” Kamal said.