By Vijay Bansal
Mahatma Khushi Ram Public Library was t established in the year 1921 by none other than a retired Post Master who gave away his life’s savings, pension benefits and a whole lot of his valuable collection of books and scriptures to form the cornerstone of this temple of learning. Mahatma Khushi Ram, as he was well known, was a great philanthropist, spiritualist and visionary, who understood the importance of education and knowledge. This temple of learning which still stands after almost 100 years of its founding, as a mark of respect and living tribute to the memory of its great founding father, can boast of a collection of more than 45,000 books on a wide variety of subjects like religion and mythology, including the Upanishads, Vedas and Puranas of olden times to modern day Encyclopedias and the works of Will Durant on travel and tourism. Besides this, volumes on subjects like Forestry, Environment, Science, Philosophy, Commerce, Fine Arts, Fiction, Management, Computers and Career Counselling, etc., adorn the shelves of this heritage library.
On 4 October, 2020, this treasure trove of knowledge shall be completing 99 years of its existence and entering its Shatabdi or Centenary Year. This whole year, as well as the next, 2020-2022, shall be remembered and celebrated in an appropriate and befitting manner. On this occasion, we would also like to remember and place on record our deep appreciation and gratitude for the memorable services rendered to the Library by Rai Bahadur Ugger Sain, the then President of the City Board or Nagar Nigam, Dehradun, who not only got 2 bighas of land in the heart of the town leased to the Society but also got the library building constructed out of his own personal contribution and donations collected during his tenure as President of the Managing Committee of the Board of Trustees from the year 1921 to the year 1979 (i.e the first 58 years of its inception).
The present members of the BOT are also grateful to the noble and well-known Professor RR Sudarshan, who was President for almost 8 years 1979-86; Dev Dutt Bali who was at the helm of affairs for nearly 4 years up to 1991; and thereafter for almost 27 years by late CB Narang , a local architect. It must be said here that it goes to the credit of this great visionary and crusader that this Library is still alive or was rather reborn during his tenure from 1991 up to 2018. The Present Board of Trustees, which includes civil servants, educationists, professionals, as well as social and business leaders in its Managing Committee, is backed by ex-officio Chief Patron, the Governor, with the First Patron being the Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand. Other ex-officio members are the Director, Education, and District Magistrate, Dehradun.
It may be worth mentioning here that, as per Bye Laws of the Society, it was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, way back in 1958-59 and its registration has been renewed every five years. The Five Year Term of the present Managing Committee formed for the period 2015-2020 comes to an end on 4 October, 2020, when it shall have to be re-constituted. Accordingly, names of the newly constituted Managing Committee for the years 2020-2025 are being finalised.
The Library & Reading Room, which have been refurbished, remain open on six days of the week Tuesday to Sunday (Monday being a closed day ) from 8 a.m. to 12 Noon in the mornings and from 4 to 8 p.m. in the evenings.
It is heartening to note that nearly 80 to 100 Reading Members visit the Library daily in the morning and evening sessions. Apart from the vast and wide collection of books on various subjects of topical interest, the Reading Room contributes to almost all daily Newspapers in English, Hindi and other vernacular magazines and journals of local interest. However, with the advancement of technology, unfortunately, the Library has not been able to keep pace with the need for modernisation and computerisation for want of adequate resources and staff. As per Vision 2020, this oldest Library in town is in urgent need of undergoing transformation. With a grant received from the ONGC under Government’s CSR Scheme (Corporate Social Responsibility) we have been able to provide fresh and clean toilets and washrooms, separately, for Ladies & Gents, and from our own resources and support from the University Women’s Association, we have been able to establish a multi-purpose “Authors’ Lounge” which can be used for Board Meetings, as well as a Training cum Class Room, etc., for small groups of 15 to 20.
We already have a spacious Community Hall for holding Sahityakar or Kavi Sammelans or other public gatherings up to 100 people. It is proposed to equip the Hall with a proper sound system as well furnish and air-cool it with all modern facilities so that it can be used more frequently and also generate some funds for expansion of facilities in the library. It is also proposed to carry out proper Indexing & Cataloguing through Computerisation to provide easy access to useful reading material for research scholars. A separate Section for Senior Citizens, a Children’s Corner, as well as Khushyon Ka Angan for Housewives have been envisaged during the coming Shatabdi Years i.e. 2020-2025. There is dire need for providing a lift for elder citizens as the Library is mostly visited on public functions by senior citizens. We are on the lookout for Angels like the ONGC and other Corporates and wealthy individuals and philanthropists who can donate for a noble cause. I may clarify that Mahatma Khushi Ram Public Library is registered under Section 80G of the Indian Income Tax Act for receiving donations. We take this opportunity to invite all citizens and lovers of Dehradun to come forward to give back to this lovely town what Dehradun has given to all of us during all these years by helping and supporting this heritage temple of learning.
(Vijay Bansal, retired IAS, is President, Board of Trustees)