Why it is necessary for collectors to preserve the past...
Where history is set to fade into oblivion
By Soumya Das
The Hindu - August 14, 2016
“India Independent Today,” announced the August 15, 1947 edition of Amrita Bazar Patrika, one of the highest selling newspapers of India in 1947. The headline is placed above the masthead. But, 69 years later, the August 15 edition is so brittle that it is impossible to open it. It is not only the August 15 edition of Amrita Bazar Patrika that is frangible — 20,000 newspapers stacked up in the reading room are either soiled or so fragile that they will all turn to dust soon.
The rare editions are stored in a dusty and dark section on the second floor of Bhasha Bhavan, located in the western part of the 30-acre campus of the National Library at Alipore. The dark room resembles a mortuary where some of the papers are kept in plastic sheets coated with a thick layer of dust. Water leaks out of the air-condition ducts and during monsoon, buckets are placed to catch the droplets.
“About two weeks ago, the room was filled with ankle-deep water,” an employee of the library said. Some of the volumes were “partially drenched.” “Look at this,” a staff member said, “the August 9, 1942 edition of The Statesman with the news of the All India Congress Committee’s endorsement of Mahatma Gandhi’s call for Quit India Movement... The pages crumble even as you try to remove the dust.” The Statesman’s October 17, 1905 edition with a graphic description of Banga Bhanga, or the first Partition of Bengal, was lying next to The Statesman or Amrita Bazar Patrika. Both announced on Page One that Rabindranath Tagore returned his Knighthood on May 30, 1919, in protest against the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre. Both have nearly disappeared.
The employees said the volumes dating back to 1889 were brought to the Alipore campus in south Kolkata three years ago, for microfilming, from the original building of the Library in central Kolkata. Secretary of the National Library Employee’s Association, Santanu Bhowmick, said there had been “no progress” in the microfilming work.
The Director-General (Additional Charge) of the National Library, Arun Kumar Chakraborty, denied the allegations.
“Perhaps, it [the project] is held up because of the complications in the tendering process,” he said.