Another PM project stuck on the tracks - The New Indian Express

Another PM project stuck on the tracks

Published: 27th Oct 2013 08:05:11 AM

Times are bad not just for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at whose door the CBI has come knocking, but also for his dream projects despite all good intentions.

Manmohan Singh
The National Library Mission (NLM), conceived to modernise and digitally link 9,000 libraries across the country, was one of Singh’s ambitious plans. And like many of his pet projects from GM crops, South Asian University to professionalisation of government bodies, NLM too is yet to take off.

The idea was mooted on the basis of recommendations made by the Sam Pitroda-headed Knowledge Commission appointed by the PM. Though the commission submitted its report way back in 2006, it took six years for NLM to take shape despite the Prime Minister taking personal interest.

“We submitted an expenditure plan of `484 crore in 2008, but it was shot down by Planning Commission. We were told to cut down plans drastically and that was it,” said a Culture Ministry official.

Nothing happened till the PMO intervened again in 2010  and a fresh proposal was drawn up. The PMO also appointed a Committee of Secretaries in October 2010 to look into the proposal.

“The fact that the PM put NLM directly under the Cabinet Secretary shows his keenness,’’ said an official associated with the NLM since inception.

But it stayed grounded. According to sources, the Library Commission was conceived when the Culture Ministry was directly under the PM and was set up in March 2012. He had said “a young reader sitting in his village library should be able to access books and information from across the world.’’

According to the budgetary note prepared for NLM, which is with The Sunday Standard, the NLM chairperson is of rank equivalent to an MoS in GoI, and its members would be equivalent to of Secretary. The budgetary allocation as of the 12th Plan period is `1,019 crore. NLM was also supposed to prepare a national policy on library and information systems for India.

The minutes of the first meeting of NLM, which took place in 2012 shows Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys head N R Narayanamurthy, who was made a member of the commitee as part of the PM’s vision of public-private partnership did not attend.

Read more: Lack of library infrastructure around country a hurdle

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If NLM is to become meaningful, National Library (NL) functioning like Calcutta s Public Library wasting millions of rupees needs to be transformed into an NL fulfilling at least minimum functions of an NL. No competent professional was posted during the last 3 decades as Director/Gen. Experts in Selection Committees were less qualified/experienced than the candidates and to get charge of NL they recommend none short-listed as competent. No proper selection procedures/norms. There are interesting gossips about corruption in selection to this post of Chief Secretary Rank. It is high time to order an inquiry into NL s functioning and expenditure. It is the NL holding the content for NLM, which needs a qualified professional, with domain experience, proved record of innovations/ achievements and vision as Director General. Should have at least 5 years experience in the level of Secretary to GOI/UGC Professor in Information Sc. He can chair NLM and be responsible for its results.

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