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30 million manuscripts lying scattered 

An estimated 30 million manuscripts in various Indian languages, a virtual treasure trove of the country’ cultural heritage, are scattered all over in a state of neglect and disrepair.

This has been acknowledged by the department of culture in the human resource development (HRD) ministry. In an internal assessment, the department officials maintained many of these manuscripts, lying in various institutions, have not been deciphered or conserved. Consequently, they are on the verge of extinction, stating that unless there is timely intervention, ‘ the precious heritage they embody would be lost’.

HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi has conveyed his concern over the lack of the preservation of these neglected manuscripts and has asked the department of culture to draw up a scheme for it.

Another area of concern in the department is the condition of the country’s public libraries. The HRD ministry has taken note of the fact that several states do not have an effective legislation or an adequate organisational structure to promote the development of public libraries.

‘Even where they exist, they are ineffective. Professionalism is poor while modalities for procurement of books and other supplies leave much room for improvement,’ the HRD ministry admits, adding that the Delivery of Books Act is not implemented effectively.

The ministry also acknowledges that libraries are underfunded, noting further that 50 years after Independence there are no complete bibliographies of books published in the country. ‘What is even more shocking is that in quite a few states the library cess is misappropriated and diverted to other uses,’ says the HRD ministry.

As a corrective measure, the HRD ministry plans to set up a national mission for the preservation of manuscripts . The project is to be launched in three phases.

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