Mumbai

In Mumbai University's Jawaharlal Nehru Library, no peace of mind

Unsafe space: The language books’ section of the library is cordoned off after a portion of the ceiling reportedly collapsed during monsoon last year.

Unsafe space: The language books’ section of the library is cordoned off after a portion of the ceiling reportedly collapsed during monsoon last year.   | Photo Credit: Suyash Karangutkar

From the outside, the Jawaharlal Nehru Library on the Kalina campus of Mumbai University (MU) looks plush and in fine shape. But step inside, and a different picture meets the eyes. While there is nothing much wrong with the management or security arrangements, several areas, including the language books’ section, are in a shambles, with crumbling ceiling and slabs, broken window panes and dust settling on important material.

With the arrival of monsoon less than a month away, students, library officials and MU senate members have now called for urgent revival of the library. Claiming that it had been in “fearsome conditions” for over two years, the students alleged that the MU administration has been ignoring the issue.

Ceiling collapses

When The Hindu visited the library on Friday, the student count inside was dismal, with the vacation period about to begin. The students said they feared the library could face the brunt of the monsoon and ignorance of the administration.

Important books are still kept in racks in the closed off section.

Important books are still kept in racks in the closed off section.   | Photo Credit: Suyash Karangutkar

An official from the library, who did not wish to be named, said the language section has been cordoned off with tapes ever since a large chunk of ceiling collapsed late in July last year.

“Course books may have been taken out, but several important books are still inside. We have beautiful coffee table books on Buddhist paintings and culture, and other Kannada, Persian, Sindhi, German and French language books inside. While the Sindhi books have been brought all the way from Karachi, Kannada books have been brought from Dharwad. Sanskrit books in the library are a rare collection too, with some being donated,” the official said.

A final-year student, on the condition of anonymity, said that some months ago, another part of the ceiling of the language section fell on a student, who was saved just by an inch. “During the monsoons the roof leaks. We go to the library to find some peace and study, but instead face fear and discomfort. Are they waiting for loss of a life? Why not prevent a mishap than wait for one?” the final-year student said.

Another student from the campus said that while the library is still a good place to study and provides important resources, the overall condition cannot be ignored.

“It is about time the officials looked into improving its condition. There are parts that require urgent attention,” he said.

‘Horror film set’

While the language books’ section is the worst hit, Vaibhav Thorat, an MU senate member, said a part of the passageway at the rear of the library resembles nothing short of the set of a horror film. “The window panes are shattered, broken chairs are scattered around, and the ceiling and walls are crumbling. This is supposed to be a passageway, but it has been ignored for years now and has become a dumping ground of sorts. Is this what a library is supposed to look like?” he asked.

The chipped ceiling and debris in a passageway.

The chipped ceiling and debris in a passageway.   | Photo Credit: Suyash Karangutkar

The library officials and Senate members said no action has been taken by the university despite a spate of complaints having been made. “A heap of old newspapers that are important for research students are covered in a blanket of dust. The thesis documents submitted are stored here. Even in the information sciences department, there are chances of the ceiling coming down. We have complained to the Vice Chancellor (VC) and engineering in-charge, but no action has been taken so far,” an official said.

They said that in August last year, a complaint had been made to the VC by the union of the non-teaching staff of the university. When approached, Mangesh Jadhav, a member of the union acknowledged the complaint, but sought time to divulge details.

New building unused

Stacks of old newspapers, an important resource for research students, are covered in a blanket of dust.

Stacks of old newspapers, an important resource for research students, are covered in a blanket of dust.   | Photo Credit: Suyash Karangutkar

Meanwhile, Mr. Thorat said the new library built adjacent to the current one is lying unused, and that he will write to the VC soon. “Even the automatic scanning machine the university has purchased for lakhs of rupees has been non-operational for months. The least the university can do is move the sections that are in the damaged part of the building to the new space. The books need to be protected too,” he said.

‘Looking into repairs’

MU officials have said while a structural audit of the library has already been carried out, the university is looking into repairs that can be undertaken.

“We have a new library that is ready next to Ambedkar Bhavan. We are also checking if and how the shifting can take place. The old library is vast and for the new one we have to check the compliance and capacity. Kalina campus is also going to be revamped soon as per a memorandum of understanding signed between the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and university,” Leeladhar Bansod, public relations officer, MU, said.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 1:04:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/in-this-library-no-peace-of-mind/article27110902.ece

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