Had he been alive, Jawaharlal Nehru would have cringed at the sight of the pathetic condition of a library named after him at the Mumbai University. The Jawaharlal Nehru Library, a 30-year-old structure, is crumbling. The three-storey building in Kalina which houses more than seven lakh books has become so weak that a large portion of the ceiling slab on the second floor has fallen over the years, putting the lives of those visiting the library at risk.
“I want to study here, but I don’t want to lose my life,“ said a professor of a nearby college. The deplorable condition of the library has meant the place which was once a favourite among book lovers, especially students, sees very few people.
Nehru, India’s first prime minister, whose birth anniversary will be celebrated across the country today, was a voracious reader who also authored several books. It is a matter of shame that the collection at the library named after him has been infested with termites. Old newspapers have been dumped in a filthy corner of the second floor; most of them are spoilt because of water seeping through cracks in the structure. Prized possessions casually strewn on the third floor are gathering dust.
Cracks in ceilings and pillars are an indication of a disaster waiting to happen. However, only Rs3 lakh has been allocated for repair work compared to the Rs1.5 crore for its facelift. “It is shameful that insensitive officials are playing with the lives of staff and students despite drawing their attention to the shoddy structure several times,” said Sanjay Vairal, member of the university senate.
“The university charges a fee for smart cards which don’t exist,” said Vairal. “The library is in immediate need of renovation. Officials should first strengthen its infrastructure instead of bothering about smart cards,” said a student who studies Russian at the university.
Pratibha Gokhale, head of the library, could not be reached for comment. Naresh Chandra, pro-vice-chancellor, said: “The renovation contract has been awarded and work has begun.” He, however, could not give the estimated budget for the renovation.
In 2010, the university announced grand plans of introducing state-of-the-art facilities in the library. Officials planned to introduce smart cards which would ensure a seamless and cashless transaction of books. It would include the library fee as well as charges for photocopy. While the smart card machines have been installed, the cards have yet to be introduced.
- 15,000 Chinese, Farsi, Sanskrit and Urdu manuscripts
- Microfilms dating back to 1942
- 7 lakh books
- Hundreds of dissertations of students