Enquiry should be based on the special audit conducted earlier this year

The allegations of financial irregularities at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) should be investigated by the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), a group of well-known academics said in a statement on Thursday.

Nine historians, scholars and writers have written a letter to the CVC asking for the immediate constitution of an “enquiry into the financial and other affairs of the NMML,” based on the special audit conducted by the government earlier this year. Their letter cites The Hindu's May 24 article on the special audit, which revealed several irregularities. The audit also found that NMML's regular professional work had come to a standstill, the letter said.

“The NMML is an institution of national importance, and the main repository of the records of our freedom struggle. Scholars and writers have been, for some time, worried about its institutional health,” said the letter, signed by well-known names, including historians Sumit Sarkar, Sunil Khilnani and Ramachandra Guha.

In fact, in May 2009, 57 leading intellectuals wrote to the Prime Minister, drawing his attention to the steady deterioration of the NMML, saying that “its decline is visible for all to see; its destruction will be a national calamity.” They had asked the Prime Minister to “immediately set in motion the steps necessary to save the NMML from becoming a failed institution.”

“Now, the special audit reports suggest that their fears may have come true,” wrote the nine academics on Thursday.

In a letter to The Hindu on May 27, NMML's head of research and publication Bhashyam Kasturi contested one of the points raised in the auditor's report. He defended the transfer of Rs. 5 crore to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, saying the “money was granted by the Culture Ministry with the full knowledge that it was for the Selected Works Project being done by the JNM Fund.” The special audit had criticised the transfer.

Meanwhile, the NMML has filed an application in the Delhi High Court seeking action for contempt against its suspended deputy director N. Balakrishnan. The move came after The Hindu carried details of the Culture Ministry file notings quoted in court by Mr. Balakrishnan's lawyer.

At a hearing on Tuesday, counsel for the NMML sought postponement of the hearing of the main case, in which Mr. Balakrishnan has challenged his suspension. The court, however, proceeded with the hearings of the main case, while asking counsel for Mr. Balakrishnan to respond to the contempt application.

The case and the contempt application are slated to be heard on June 3.

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