The decision of the Tamil Nadu Government to shift the Anna Centenary Library from the spacious, well-equipped modern building in Kotturpuram, Chennai, is difficult to justify on any ground. That the library is to be moved to the proposed Integrated Knowledge Park on the Directorate of Public Instruction campus in Nungambakkam is no consolation. The nine-storied, 3,48,480 square feet ACL building, erected on an eight acre site at a cost of Rs.172 crore to mark the centenary of C.N. Annadurai, attracts between 1,200 and 2,000 book lovers every day. Now the imposing structure, which was specially designed and engineered for a library, is to be converted into a super-specialty paediatric hospital. While there can be no argument against enhancing health care facilities in Chennai, doing so by dismantling a functioning library is clearly not the way to go. A lot can be done to further develop Tamil Nadu's health infrastructure, which has won widespread praise, without encroaching on the space accorded to other priority sectors. If the rationale for the shift is that the DPI campus would provide an ideal educational environment for the library, then the current location, which is within the Science City, is even more congenial. Kotturpuram is in the Guindy-Taramani institutional belt, which hosts several educational and research institutions, including the Indian Institute of Technology, Anna University, the Periyar Science and Technology Centre, the Central Leather Research Institute, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the Asian College of Journalism, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the National Institute of Fashion Technology.
The underlying reason for the proposed shift, which has now been stayed by the Madras High Court, is clearly subjective-political. The library was built by the predecessor Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government on land that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government headed by Ms Jayalalithaa had, during its previous term (2001-2006), earmarked for housing the Secretariat. One of the first decisions made by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in her current term was to shift the Secretariat back to Fort St. George from its new premises in Government Estate on Anna Salai. The reasoning was sound: the DMK government's shift had been hasty and haphazard, the building was incomplete, and the structures meant to accommodate Secretaries and other officials were not even built. The government would effectively have been functioning from two different premises had the switch back to Fort St. George not been made. Also, there were allegations of irregularities, including the use of sub-standard material, in the construction of the new Secretariat complex. No such objection can be raised against the ACL building. Instead of fighting court battles on this issue, the AIADMK government would do well to rescind its decision and let the library stay and flourish, respecting public sentiment.
Keywords: Anna Centenary Library