Rise in thefts, shortage of books test nerves of readers

Amarjot Kaur

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 16

It seems that the authorities concerned at TS Central State Library, Sector 17, have not learnt a lesson from the infamous 2008 incident, wherein heritage furniture worth several lakhs was stolen from the childrens’ section.

The readers at the library were pestered by petty thefts, which have increased manifold over a number of years. While most readers and members of the library refused to speak fearing head librarian Anju Gupta’s temper. However, some readers on condition of anonymity poured their heart out.

“Several thefts have taken place. On Friday, a cycle was stolen from the library premises. People have complained about losing their laptops, mobiles and bags from the library. There are no security guards here,” said a member on condition of anonymity.

This correspondent paved her way into the library without being asked to make any entry in the register. On the first floor, the toilet section bore a “no entry” tag. On enquiring, the correspondent was led to the second floor. “In June 2018, a woman had complained that a man was peeping into the girls’ washroom on the ground floor. A couple of such incidents have surfaced in the past. A DDR was also registered. That’s why they’ve locked these toilets. On the first floor, the toilets are reserved for staff,” said another library member.

A lady who has been preparing for the civil services exams shared, “Earlier, we got the first floor washrooms opened. Now, they’ve put up ‘staff’ tags on them. My bag, with valuables and notes was stolen from the library. Every time I complained, I was harassed by the head librarian.”

She said, “People have listed names of the books they need in the demand register. However, new editions of the books are still not here. In fact, there are only two or three books for entrance exams which are shared by some 600 members of the library.”

Another woman reader said, “We visited Education Secretary BL Sharma on April 2 and 10 to voice the issues. He assured that action will be taken in the coming week. In September last year, we also visited Rubinderjit Singh Brar, Director Higher Education.”

In a meeting with Gupta, another member raised concerns over drinking water. “We are not getting filtered water. The water is muddy and grainy,” he said.

While Anju assured that she’ll get the filter’s candles changed, she made sure to scold the boy for not telling her about the problem in advance. When asked, she said, the library received funds between Rs 1 and 2 crore annually. “We have purchased about 5,000 books lately. They have been displayed in the acquisition centre,” she said.

As per a source, information obtained under the RTI Act revealed that two people’s were mentioned as security guards namely Shelly and Amit, while Veena was said to be the gatekeeper.

“It was also revealed that Amit worked as a restorer in the Sector 23 branch of the library,” said the source.

Anju said the books were purchased through the Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation. However, the information obtained under the RTI Act revealed that all information regarding the purchase/procurement of books was available on library’s website.

“It was found that the library invited only six tenders in the last 10 years instead of 20. There are two state library planning committee meetings held every year for the purchase of books in the library,” said the source.