Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists' Association plans State-wide protests

The State government's decision to shift the Anna Centenary Library in Kotturpuram to the proposed Integrated Knowledge Park on the DPI campus in Nungambakkam has evoked strong dissent, including from writers, students and educationists.

While no association or individual is opposed to the idea of a fully-equipped super speciality hospital coming up for children, writers and others who frequent the library urge the government to revoke its decision of shifting a fully functional library that has gone on to become a storehouse of knowledge and a key landmark in the city.

Senior writers, including recipients of the Sahitya Akademi Award, have expressed shock at the decision. “The government should abandon the idea of shifting the library and do all it can to ensure smooth functioning of the library on its current premises in Kotturpuram,” said a statement, signed by critically claimed writers such as Sa. Kandasamy, Ashokamitran, Indira Parthasarathy, Nanjil Nadan, Sirpri Balasubramanian and S. Ramakrishnan.

The Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists' Association (TNPWA), affiliated to the CPI(M) deplored the decision. S.Tamilselvan and Su.Venkatesan, president and secretary respectively of the TNPWA, said this decision was “shocking and painful” for all those interested in the important contribution of libraries to the development of the society. The Association would organise State-wide protests if the State Government does not revoke its decision.

“Dream of educationists”

The library, set up at a cost of Rs. 180 crore on eight acres, was a “dream of educationists”, they said. According to sources in the Directorate of Public Libraries, the library currently has over 5 lakh books sources from different parts of India. Users could access several peer review and academic journals published in other countries through the digital interface created there.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government's move was “politically motivated” and was to snub the former Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Government, they said. Even the reasons given for such a decision were not acceptable and the DPI campus, a place visited by people from several sections, would not be suitable for a library, they said in a statement issued here.

Education activist S.S. Rajagopalan said when one is elected leader by the people, he or she has to keep all personal likes and dislikes away. “Is the Chief Minister implying saying no to knowledge itself,” he asked, pointing to how a public library attracts people from all walks of life to access good content.

There is no point in simply building new structures. “Why, there is so much to be done to the Institute of Child Health in Egmore which lacks basic facilities. Even if the government want to set up another hospital, finding land shouldn't be a problem. Why should it disturb an existing library?”

A senior professor at the University of Madras said: “The library is excellent, offering very good facilities. In fact, there was a proposal to shift the oriental manuscripts in our University to the new library, so that they can be preserved better. Even that was prevented after the AIADMK came to power. The old manuscripts are lying in very poor condition.”

Students disappointed

Student and youth wings have also expressed their disappointment. The Tamil Nadu unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and the Students Federation of India (SFI) wondered why the State government, which had given thousands of acres for the establishment of industries by multinational companies, should choose to shift the library for constructing a paediatric hospital.

They suggested that the State Government could take over the lands, which had been given on lease to private individuals for a paltry amount, and utilise them for welfare schemes.