Building a future from rubble: Jharkhand IAS officer transforms abandoned govt buildings into libraries
The renovated buildings – libraries — are provided a general set of books, chairs, tables and other amenities through crowd-funding and under the Corporate Social Responsibility funds.
JHARKHAND: IAS officer Faiz Aq Ahmed Mumtaz has a unique task at hand — that of setting up rural libraries in remote villages of Jamtara so that the poor are motivated to read and write. For that he has made use of abandoned government buildings which have been transformed into 30 libraries under different panchayats of the district. Ahmed says the idea is to provide a better environment to develop reading habits and space at the doorstep of rural youths so that they can clear competitive exams without moving out to cities and towns.
The renovated buildings – libraries — are provided a general set of books, chairs, tables and other amenities through crowd-funding and under the Corporate Social Responsibility funds. These libraries are then handed over to local villagers for day-to-day management by forming a committee. Ahmed says his initiative serves two purposes: the dilapidated buildings are put to use after renovation and, secondly, it develops a community feeling among the villagers.
It has especially benefited girls whose parents are reluctant to send them to a city for education. The deputy commissioner hit upon the idea while holding a ‘janta darbar’ in Chengadih panchayat. A villager while pointing at the lack of education facilities said a library could be a great help for youths who have no means to travel to nearby towns for preparing competitive exams. “I thought in every gram panchayat, there is at least one government building which remains unused. I started renovating these buildings into community libraries.
A first such library was set up at Chengaidih panchayat on November 13 last year,” said Ahmed. The availability of books in these libraries is being ensured under public participation which requires only a modest expenditure, he said. Ahmed said resources are being mobilised with the help of different departments in terms of providing water and electricity to these libraries for which the committee, formed for the purpose, pays. Resources like tables and cupboards are being raised from CSR funds and books are being collected through donations and crowdfunding, he said.
“One bank account has been opened for each library which will help the local committee to raise funds through donations and other means,” said the Deputy Commissioner. The enthusiasm of local villagers has prompted him to expand the initiative to all 118 panchayat in Jamtara. “Reading and education should be given more importance and a library culture should be developed and promoted with community participation. Once this model is successful and a culture of reading develops among rural youths, inter-library competitions could be organized in order to provide a better learning environment to the people, he said. Ahmed believes that libraries can play an important role in the development of any community. “Jamtara is notorious for cyber crimes.
My initiative can help in removing the tag of ‘hub of cyber-crimes’ for Jamtara. Cyber-crimes possibly spread due to the lack of education in the region,” said the Deputy Commissioner. Jharkhand Assembly Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto, who has inaugurated several such libraries in his Assembly constituency Nala, appreciates Ahmed’s initiative. “Libraries are the temple of knowledge. They ignite our thirst for knowledge and raise one’s mental level,” said the Speaker.
“This is a commendable step taken by the Deputy Commissioner”, he said. Youths are excited about such libraries. “We must thank the deputy commissioner for the precious gift to Chengadih panchayat. We had to travel long distances to get a book,” said Nasiruddin Ansari, a student. “The library is helping us a lot for preparing for various competitive exams”, he said. Ashraf Ali, another student, said the library has given a new hope to the youths in his village. “The library in Chengadih has brought about a positive change among the youths; they are now more serious about books and their studies,” Ali said. Dipankar Mondal, a student, said many youths like him will make him proud one day.