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New body to run Delhi’s oldest public library

Sep 01, 2023 02:18 AM IST

The library’s employees have alleged that their salaries are not paid on time, and that the library has faced power cuts due to non-payment of bills.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) will replace the governing body of the Hardayal Municipal Heritage Public Library, the oldest public library in the Capital, in an attempt to rid it of its ongoing financial crisis.

Set up in 1862, the library, located in Chandni Chowk behind the Town Hall, is an autonomous body but is operated with the help of a grant in aid provided by MCD on a half yearly basis. (HT Archive)
Set up in 1862, the library, located in Chandni Chowk behind the Town Hall, is an autonomous body but is operated with the help of a grant in aid provided by MCD on a half yearly basis. (HT Archive)

Set up in 1862, the library, located in Chandni Chowk behind the Town Hall, is an autonomous body but is operated with the help of a grant in aid provided by MCD on a half yearly basis. However, the library’s employees have alleged that their salaries are not paid on time, and that the heritage library has faced power cuts due to non-payment of electricity bills.

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The house of councillors, during its general meeting on Thursday, approved a proposal to replace the panel with an 11-member management committee headed by the Delhi mayor, with other members comprising six elected councillors and four ex-officio experts.

Mayor Shelly Oberoi said, “The grant being provided by MCD was not being put to use. Salaries were not being provided to the employees. After taking legal and financial opinions, we have decided to approve the proposal to bring in a new management committee. I assure that this panel will be formed soon and the woes faced by the workers will be addressed.”

Oberoi said MCD constituted a verification committee to look into the issues being faced by the library staff, and based on the panel’s report, the workers will soon start getting their salary. “This will help to provide relief to workers as well as the general public,” she said.

However, Poonam Parasher Jha, a formerBharatiya Janata Party (BJP) councillor and member secretary of the library, said Oberoi’s allegations are not true. “We have not been provided any grant after the AAP came to power (in MCD). The last grant of 50 lakh was released during the tenure of the special officer but we could only provide 3-4 months’ salary with those funds. Pendency of 29 months could not be cleared. The electricity department had cut our electricity supply for 20 days in May due to non-payment of bills and still no help was provided,” she said.

A part of Delhi’s history, the library was set up in 1862 when it was a part of the Lawrence Institute, named after the then viceroy of India. The existing building was built between 1861 and 1866.The library was shifted to new building and renamed Hardinge Municipal Public Library in 1916.

After Independence, the library was renamed for Lala Hardayal, the revolutionary and anarchist who founded the Ghadar party.

The library houses copies of the Delhi Gazette from 1917 to 1988 and has many rare gems in its collection, including around 8,000 rare texts and 350 handwritten manuscripts.

The rare books include History of the World (1677) containing maps of the whole world; a handwritten copy of the Bhagwat Mahapuran (1800); the Mahabharata translated in Persian during Mughal emperor Akbar’s rule; Quran Majeed (1928), the Quran written in Hindi; Prem Sagar, the first book written in Braj Bhasha in 1881; and Bhrigu Samhita, a book on astrology.

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