NEW DELHI: Her morning starts with reaching the library at 6 and waiting for her turn to get a token, without which getting a seat in Hardayal Municipal Public Library is not possible. “I got myself registered in this library two years ago. I thought I would get to read a lot of books but the library has only old books, and no new stock is being added. So, I have started carrying my own books now,” said Manvi Sharma, who is preparing for medical entrance.
A library is not a luxury but necessity of life. But one of Delhi’s oldest libraries, Hardayal Municipal Public Library in Chandni Chowk, is battling for its existence in absence of basic amenities. This despite the fact that nearly 600 book lovers queue up outside the building from 6 am everyday to grab a seat in it, as the library has a seating capacity of only 200.
“We have devised a token system to prevent people from grabbing seats for their friends. Only the person with a token can get a seat. Still, giving seat to everyone is not possible,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
The library—which celebrated its centenary last year—lacks basic facilities such as air conditioning, drinking water and clean toilets. It hasn’t bought a single book in the last 10 years. Its digitisation is been pending due to lack of funds. The library is funded by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which has not paid the staff salaries for eight months.
The library gets a fund of `3 crore from the MCD every year. “But it never comes on time. Every year during monsoon, rainwater seeps into the library. This heritage library has lost its charm,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
Not only students, but its 81 employees, who have spent half of their lives serving library and the visitors, are at the receiving end. “We have been waiting for our salaries for the past eight months,” another official said.
The library, which was established in 1862, was taken over by freedom fighter Lala Hardayal from the British in 1916. It has three sections—reading room, books and newspaper sections. The newspaper section, which is free, doesn’t even have a proper window or a fan.
In December, NDMC had asked Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage to prepare a detail project report for its restoration.