The prestigious Mumbai Marathi Granth Sangrahalaya (MMGS) which will complete 118 years on March 14 is struggling to run the chain of libraries, in the absence of financial aid from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, alleged the education committee of the civic body.
Of the 29 libraries run by the organisation since 1965, it had to shut 12 after the BMC stopped financial aid. The matter was discussed Tuesday during the education committee meeting when a proposal to increase the aid of the existing 18 libraries under the MMGS was put forth by the civic body. The BMC, one of the richest municipal corporations, since 2008 gives the MMGS a grant of Rs 27,000 per library every year, which is woefully inadequate said one of the committee members during the meeting.
As a result, the most handsome salary at the granth sangrahalaya does not exceed Rs 8,500 a month. The committee members alleged that with such less financial aid, the organisation can neither do anything to upgrade the libraries’ collection nor can they restore the library.
According to the proposal put forth before the committee members Tuesday, the civic body has proposed to increase the grant to Rs 30,000 for libraries having less than 50 members and Rs 50,000 for libraries with more members. The education committee members however did not approve the proposal.
Shivnath Darade, a corporator and member of the education committee said, “The BMC-run Marathi libraries were closing down due to lack of funds and students are dropping out of Marathi schools. He said some political leaders were harping on the Marathi issue even as they send their own children to English-medium schools. I have demanded that the grant should be increased to at least Rs 1 lakh for smaller libraries and those given “A” grades must get at least Rs 3 lakh annunal financial assistance. At one end, the state government is celebrating Vachan Prerana Diwas (Reading Inspiration Day), and libraries and reading rooms like these are shutting down for lack of funds.”
About six years ago, the organisation had to shut 12 libraries, most in the island city, as the BMC stopped extending financial assistance, citing low readership. Today, the MMGS runs 17 libraries in the city with BMC’s aid, and a few that it runs on its own.
One of its administrators said, “Put together salaries of our employees, funds for purchase of new books, maintenance cost and so on. We spend about a lakh rupees on every library every year, while the BMC’s grant is much lower and does not suffice. Hence, we had to close a few libraries. We keep writing to the BMC every year requesting them to increase the grant. What new thing can we do to attract more memberships? Why would anybody renew their membership when there is nothing new happening?”
As of March 31, 2014, the MMGS had a total of 11,787 members but the figure stands at 4,549 as per November 2015.