Another PM project stuck on the tracks
By Cithara Paul - NEW DELHI
Published: 27th Oct 2013 08:05:11 AM
Times are bad not just for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at whose door the CBI has come knocking, but also for his dream projects despite all good intentions.
The National Library Mission (NLM), conceived to modernise and digitally link 9,000 libraries across the country, was one of Singh’s ambitious plans. And like many of his pet projects from GM crops, South Asian University to professionalisation of government bodies, NLM too is yet to take off.
The idea was mooted on the basis of recommendations made by the Sam Pitroda-headed Knowledge Commission appointed by the PM. Though the commission submitted its report way back in 2006, it took six years for NLM to take shape despite the Prime Minister taking personal interest.
“We submitted an expenditure plan of `484 crore in 2008, but it was shot down by Planning Commission. We were told to cut down plans drastically and that was it,” said a Culture Ministry official.
Nothing happened till the PMO intervened again in 2010 and a fresh proposal was drawn up. The PMO also appointed a Committee of Secretaries in October 2010 to look into the proposal.
“The fact that the PM put NLM directly under the Cabinet Secretary shows his keenness,’’ said an official associated with the NLM since inception.
But it stayed grounded. According to sources, the Library Commission was conceived when the Culture Ministry was directly under the PM and was set up in March 2012. He had said “a young reader sitting in his village library should be able to access books and information from across the world.’’
According to the budgetary note prepared for NLM, which is with The Sunday Standard, the NLM chairperson is of rank equivalent to an MoS in GoI, and its members would be equivalent to of Secretary. The budgetary allocation as of the 12th Plan period is `1,019 crore. NLM was also supposed to prepare a national policy on library and information systems for India.
The minutes of the first meeting of NLM, which took place in 2012 shows Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys head N R Narayanamurthy, who was made a member of the commitee as part of the PM’s vision of public-private partnership did not attend.