Facing a severe staff shortage the National Archives of India (NAI) is now looking at hiring from private firms.
The present crisis,officials say,is a result of long recruitment process and restrictions for certain posts.
In charge of maintaining and preserving administrative and historical documents and manuscripts,the NAI was established in 1981 and is an attached office of the Ministry of Culture.
According to Assistant Director of Archives Rajesh Verma,the recruitment process has been recommended by the Staff Selection Committee and the UPSC. Recruitment takes time, says Verma. Also,there are mandatory restrictions on certain posts due to administrative requirements.
The present drive was launched about two months ago. The Archives has launched similar drives earlier too over the last ten years,Verma says.
According to officials,recruiting in this manner is a difficult task as most private firms do not specialise in archival training. The administration department of the Archives created a separate interview board for such applicants.
Verma says the response so far has been good and approximately 60 people have been employed.
The applicants are generally employed in a set of seven projects that have been initiated recently. One of them includes transferring government records post-Independence from various ministries to the Archives.
Assistants from the Archives have to visit the ministries and personally oversee the process. They also have to handle processing these records,preparing a reference media and downgrading and de-classifying previously classified documents to make them more accessible to the public.
Applicants with a background in physics and chemistry are also involved in the preservation of older records,repair and binding of rare and important books and security microfilming a process which captures miniature images of documents onto film,thereby reducing their size without losing any information.
According to officials,applicants are required to be post-graduates mainly in history,though some are from physics and chemistry backgrounds as well. The former are involved in management and cataloging,whereas the latter handle record preservation and conversation. They also need to have a special diploma in archival science. Several of the archival assistants are ex-trainees from the School of Archival studies,which was established within the National Archives to meet the demand for trained custodians of documentation and is the only school in the country to provide such a diploma.
These new employees are brought in on contract,and are paid a fixed amount as approved by the government.
Verma claims since the outsourcing drive things are looking up at the Archives.
We have set a target to receive 90,000 records by the end of this year, he says. And several have already come in.