Updated: June 27, 2021 7:31:45 am
For three hours daily, Sub-Inspector Akash Singh (27) teaches Maths to Class IX-X students and Indian Polity to those sitting for competitive exams, at a “community library” housed in a restored panchayat building in Nala village of Jamtara district.
The library in Nala is part of an initiative launched by the district administration on November 13 last year. The district, known as a hub of cyber crime, now has 118 such libraries, all in restored panchayat buildings.
“It is a long shot, but the libraries will help the youth of the district stay away from the lure of making a quick buck in cyber crime,” said Deputy Commissioner Faiz Aq Ahmed Mumtaz.
He said he got the idea when a villager asked him if a reading space could be arranged. “Slowly, we started converting dilapidated buildings into libraries. The aim is to increase the literacy rate in rural areas, especially female literacy which is 49.66%,” he said.
The district administration said the 15th Finance Commission’s ‘Untied Fund’ was used for restoration of the buidings — the cost ranged from Rs 60,000 to Rs 2.2 lakh per library. Bookshelves, tables and chairs were funded by officials at the block and panchayat levels or through CSR (corporate social responsibility).
The district administration has also provided the books. While there is a librarian from the local community, officials, including police personnel, junior engineers, panchayat secretaries, gram rozgar sevaks, hold at least one class every week in half of these libraries.
“Starting community libraries is one of the best initiatives, as the only way to bring the district out of cyber crime is to engage the youth and point them in the right direction. About 50 students, in multiple shifts, come to study daily,” said SI Singh, posted at the Nala Police Station.
Akshay Ray, the librarian at Nala, is a graduate and is preparing for competitive examinations. “A radio operator employed at the Nala Police Station also comes here to study. The environment here is conducive for studies,” Ray said.
Each library has a panchayat-level Library Maintenance Committee comprising volunteers, and its own bank account to collect contributions from the public. The onus of purchasing more books, paying electricity bills and upgrading the library is on the local community. All the libraries have been geo-tagged and their coordinates and details have been uploaded on the district website.
“Recently, a quiz competition was held among 31 libraries. It gained some traction… we will need sustained efforts to keep all the libraries operational,” said Mumtaz.
In Lakhanpur village, about 50 km from Nala, Raju Marandi, the librarian, said the district administration needs to extend more help. “We need more inter-departmental coordination so that I can use the panchayat funds to engage a few good teachers at the library. The people here don’t have much idea about how to utilise this space effectively. I teach some students, but the district administration needs to engage some good teachers,” said Sunil Baski, the panchayat mukhiya.
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