Jamtara in Jharkhand has become the only district in the country where all gram panchayats have community libraries.
This district with a population of about eight lakh has a total of 118 gram panchayats under six blocks and each panchayat has a well-equipped library which is open for students from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Career counselling sessions and motivational classes are also held free of cost here. Sometimes, IAS and IPS officers also visit these libraries to guide students. Everyone is welcome to visit these innovative sites!
Most of these libraries, whose details, GPS location, photographs and contact numbers, have been provided on the district’s official website, were set up around two years ago with the assistance of Deputy Commissioner Faiz Aq Ahmed Mumtaz.
The story of the beginning of this initiative is also interesting. A Janta Darbar was initially organised by the district administration to know the problems of the villagers in Changidih Panchayat.
However, when a villager complained about the lack of proper educational institutions and books here, Faiz decided to facilitate these libraries across the district.
When he received information about derelict buildings in each district, Faiz planned to renovate them and convert them into libraries. On November 13, 2020, the district’s first ever community library was inaugurated.
From the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds received from several companies and money received by the district under the 14th and 15th Finance Commission, Rs 60,000-2.5 lakh was spent on the restoration and infrastructure of these libraries.
Gradually, libraries were set up in panchayats such as Chandradeep, Panjaniya, Menjhia, Gopalpur, Shaharpura, Champapur, and Jhilua. The villagers elected a President, Treasurer, and Librarian from amongst themselves, to run these libraries.
They also contributed furniture, water filters, blackboards and emergency lights for some.
When schools were shut during the Covid-induced lockdown, villagers used at least two teachers to teach students at each library.
According to Faiz, over 10,000 career guidance and motivational sessions have been organised in these libraries in the last one and a half years. Various department officers also take time off to teach classes.
Now over 350 teachers have joined these libraries, who regularly guide the 5,000 students enrolled here. Besides these, books for competitive exams, literature, history, spiritual and motivational topics are also available.
Faiz, who is elated with the success of his initiative, told IANS: “The best society is the one which invests the most in education and health. It is our endeavour that capable people of the society adopt these libraries.
“I’m excited with the initiative’s fruitful results. Many students studying here every day have started scoring well in competitive examinations. A library member recently cleared the UPSC Civil Services Mains and is now preparing for the interview.”
Azharuddin, who studied in Jiajori Panchayat Library, has cleared the Panchayat Secretary examination of the Jharkhand government. Gaur Chandra Yadav, the librarian at Khaira Panchayat library, said that since the library opened in November 2020, the routine of the nearby students have changed.
On April 20, a seven-member committee, under the leadership of Deputy Secretary of the department, Shambhunath Mishra, of the Panchayati Raj Department of the state government took stock of the library models and visited the ones located in Jiyajori and Shahradal. The people of the committee were very impressed with the arrangement made here.
Jharkhand Assembly Speaker, Rabindranath Mahto, who represents the Nala Assembly constituency in the same district, inaugurated many libraries here. He said that efforts to change the identity of Jamtara district through libraries have been successful. This model should also be adopted in other districts of the state.
“Jamtara has been the work place of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the great social reformer and educationist of the 19th century. He spent the last two decades of his life in Karmatand, Jamtara, awakening the light of education. It is to be hoped that this innovative campaign of libraries will bring back the old identity of Jamtara,” he said.