It is a shame that some 30,000 books of the Mantralaya library in Mumbai have been dumped into a godown in Tardeo. Perhaps it should not come as too big a surprise in an era when knowledge and scientific outlook are derided and falsehood is glorified by those in power.
It is dedicated individuals who are preserving the reading culture. Dr Anand Joshi, a member of the Asiatic library for decades, has donated Rs. One lakh to the library. I was present at a meeting of the modern book selection committee of the library yesterday when chairperson Mangala Sardeshpande made the announcement.
And there are several others including academics like Mani Kamerkar and Dr L.B. Kenny who have made donations to the library from their savings.
Similarly there are people all over who are helping in other institutions. . It is the government establishment that is failing us badly.
I used to be a member of Mantralaya’s useful library and I still retain the membership card. It used to be on the ground floor very conveniently located, opposite the information department of the government. There was another good library of the Indian Institute of Public Administration on the same floor.
These were shifted following the fire in the Mantralaya building in 2012 which caused extensive damage, killed 3 people and injured 15.
The books have been dumped elsewhere to make way for another office. This brings us to another point. The Maharashtra government and the civic body have shown a scandalous disregard for land and space.
They have given away acres and acres of government land to dubious organisations and now they are desperately short of space for their own projects. That is why we find the shameful spectacle of public space being invaded , people being robbed of access to these spaces, for Metro rail project, vehicle testing tracks and others.
And yet, no lessons have been learnt. It is disgraceful that the government wants now to sell whatever remaining land there is. People will lose the Mumbai port trust land spread over several hectares if they do not assert themselves. The government is actively contributing to making Mumbai unliveable. It seems it looks at land not as a public asset but as a commodity to be given to greedy builders and corporates shorn of any sentiment of public good.
Mantralaya bureaucrats should realise that there is valuable source material in the library which is not available on the internet.
No less shameful is the utter neglect of the Central library project. Part of the reason for this disgraceful state is the fact that few of the worthies in power care to read. I have been going also to the Council hall library and the Yashwantrao Chavan Centre library in the last several years and have seldom seen politicians there.Also severely neglected is the Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalaya library in Dadar which has rare books and other source material on Marathi literature and the cultural life of Maharashtra.