Gandhi Museum deserves a better deal to match the footfall

A must-visit place: Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai has so many things of interest to attract even a casual visitor.

A must-visit place: Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai has so many things of interest to attract even a casual visitor.  

First-time visitors should have a lasting impression of the important landmark

On a normal day close to 1,000 persons visit Gandhi Memorial Museum, an architectural landmark in an otherwise nondescript north Madurai. On weekends and holidays, the numbers double.

However, lack of basic infrastructural facilities and manpower shortage on the sprawling 13-acre campus has come in for criticism from visitors. “We are not asking for air-conditioners in the museum, but at least, the authorities can provide fans in the library,” said Anitha Rajan, who visits the premises regularly.

The anguish expressed by Ms. Anitha seems to be not an isolated voice, but one among many. Many research scholars from Gandhigram Rural Institute and other cities pursuing doctorate on Gandhian studies suggest that an user-friendly index at the library will enable them to locate the journals/reference books easily. There are close to 40,000 rare books, manuscripts and articles dating back to four to five decades. The authorities should preserve them by using the latest technology available, the scholars say.

With the World Tamil Sangam situated close to Gandhi Memorial Museum, many foreign tourists, especially Tamil-speaking people from countries such as Canada, UK, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Singapore visit the museum.

“After seeing the Keeladi artefacts displayed on the Sangam campus, when we visited the museum, there is no rest room facility. When I peeped into the rest room, a staff said, there is no water,” Jagadeesan Veerasingh Arunachalam from Colombo, said. “I was born in Thoothukudi, but now live in Sri Lanka. My roots are still in south Tamil Nadu. I will be glad to build rest rooms with water facility here,” he told The Hindu and offered to give funds to the museum.

Likewise, many students from schools and colleges from far and near Madurai visit the museum campus as a part of educational tour. “When we take them to Gandhi Museum for the first time, they should have a good impression so that it will last their lifetime. But the situation here is such that even refreshments are not available for the children on the campus,” a teacher, accompanying students from a school in Virudhunagar district, said.

A faculty member from Madurai Kamaraj University said that the library authorities can install a user-friendly online search facility at the library so that users can easily locate the book or material.

Admitting that the museum required a facelift, an executive committee member of the Gandhi Museum said that recently some officials from Ahmedabad Gandhi Heritage visited the campus and suggested certain steps to improve the amenities. A new proposal to give a facelift to the Peace Park, the Gandhi Kudil and the open-air auditorium were discussed at the meeting, he said.

Gandhi Museum Director (Administration) Nanda Rao said that they have prepared separate proposals for fund mobilisation and to execute works at the Museum’s library and other wings on the campus. Collector T.G. Vinay is keen on improving the facilities and has sought a proposal to this effect, he said.

The Guest House with about 10 rooms, situated behind the Main Museum, would be refurbished without disturbing the structure. “We have engaged an architect who visited the campus recently. We are in the process of re-doing the premises, without changing the heritage values,” he added.

Better salaries

After the demise of museum secretary M.P. Gurusamy, the authorities are yet to nominate a regular secretary, the EC member said and added that the staff salary structure needed revision. The museum has to appoint new staff since the vacancies have resulted in work pressure for the empoloyees.

During Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s time, Gandhi Museums across the country received a one-time grant of ₹one crore each. With the money being deposited in the bank, the interest earned helped, to some extent, to meet monthly bills, he said.

The State government also gave ₹3 lakh per annum. But it is meagre. Like the Centre, the Tamil Nadu government should give more grants to the museum. “Gandhi Museum is not a business venture. We are not here for making profits. We are propagating the ideals of of the Bapu (Mahatma). With some of the noted industrialists on Board and as Executive Committee members, the museum should get a new look in the next few months,” said Mr. Nanda Rao.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 2:42:52 PM |

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