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NMML - 2


EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs Nehru Memorial Museum
and research in social sciences. It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), & Library – 1

EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs Nehru Memorial Museum
and research in social sciences. It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), & Library – 1
which was launched and shepherded by Sachin Chaudhuri, who was also the founder-editor of EPW. As editor for thirty-five years (1969-2004) Krishna Raj Iread the piece ‘Saving the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library’ (EPW, 27 June
gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys. 2009) with interest. The idea of seeking to
editor improve problems affecting any institution
C Rammanohar Reddy Deputy Editor that draws upon the country’s resources is
Bernard D’Mello welcome.
web Editor subhash rai I have used the NMML since August 1977.
Senior Assistant Editors The initial inspiration was provided by
Lina Mathias aniket Alam those incredibly fascinating MA lectures of
Bharati Bhargava Sumit Sarkar. When we were unsuccessful
Assistant Editors Srinivasan ramani in finding the recommended books in the
rama sampath kumar Editorial Staff Delhi University Library, Sumit Sarkar
Prabha Pillai himself asked us to try the NMML. My first
Editorial Assistants P S Leela visit to the NMML (along with two class-
Tanya Sethi mates) was to submit a memorandum to
Editorial Consultant Gautam Navlakha the then director with signatures collected
Circulation from the students of my batch who had
Gauraang Pradhan Manager B S Sharma opted for the course “Modern India”. We
Advertisement Manager had resolved to sit on a peaceful dharna
Kamal G Fanibanda General Manager & Publisher outside the library since, in its effort to re-
K Vijayakumar tain its exclusive character, the NMML had
editorial, suddenly decided to make it out of bounds
Circulation for the MA final students of Delhi Univer Advertising sity. The then director, after initial resist, ance, eventually relented.
Economic and Political Weekly 320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate The point is that the NMML was always
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel Mumbai 400 013 an exclusive institution, which also always
Phone: (022) 4063 8282 had/has an association with the Congress
FAX: (022) 2493 4515 EPW Research Foundation Party. After all, it would be naïve to expect
EPW Research Foundation, established in 1993, conducts research on financial and macro-economic issues in India. it to be anything else, except perhaps during
Director the interlude in 1998-2004 when the fascist
k kanagasabapathy C 212, Akurli Industrial Estate right controlled it. And, interestingly, one
Kandivali (East), Mumbai 400 101 Phones: (022) 2887 3038/41 | Fax: (022) 2887 3038 does not have any memory of any formal criticism related to the NMML’s functioning
Subscription Rates during those dark days and in this sense one
Inland Subscription (Rs) Six One Three months year years can only hope that the current expression
Institutions – 2500 6800 Individuals 650 1250 3200 Teachers/Researchers – 900 2400 Students – 600 – of criticisms/counter criticisms is a healthy development that should continue and not end in August 2009, when the term of the
Concessional rates are restricted to students, teachers and researchers in India.To subscribe at concessional rates, please submit proof of eligibility current director comes to an end and a new
from an institution. Remittance by money order/bank draft preferred. Please add Rs 35 to cheques drawn on banks outside Mumbai. one is appointed.
Overseas Subscription ($US) Air Mail Surface Mail However, if one looks at the NMML’s past
Institutional Rates One year One year SAARC Countries 130 115 Rest of the world 250 170 Individual Rates in relation to its present, the level of its exclusiveness has indeed declined. Like any other sarkari-funded institution, the NMML
SAARC Countries 100 75 Rest of the world 170 125 The Department of Posts has removed the concession accorded to too has had its ups and downs, but it would be erroneous to assess its past as repre-
Registered Newspapers on postage outside the country. As a result the postage rate has doubled for airmail and surface mail.Therefore, we are senting “a golden age” and binarise this
constrained to revise the subscription rates. Web subscription (one year) against its present decline and mediocrity.
India Individuals Rs 800 Institutions Rs 2100 This latter aspect sounds terribly arrogant
Foreign Individuals US $ 60 Institutions US $ 110 All remittances to Economic & Political Weekly. For online credit card payment for subscription log on to and is against the spirit of any intellectual debate. I would go so far as to argue that
4 july 18, 2009

Ever since the first issue in 1966,

even the impact of the fascist right was inversely related – in many ways – to the intellectual climate and some of the productions that were generated by the institution during that time.

Moreover, the idea of a “golden age” of the NMML needs serious rethinking. For example, during the stewardship of its most well-known director (in the 1980s), I had the painful experience of spending over six months (in the course of two field trips to Orissa) to get the Utkala Sahitya Samaj to write a letter, requesting the NMML to xerox and/or microfilm two Oriya newspapers – Samyabadi (‘Socialist’; 1295 Pausa

– 1877) and Utkala Putra (‘Son of Utkala’; 1870s) – along with the Orissa Communist Party’s Krushak (1938) and Mukti Judhya from the Communist Party of India office (Cuttack). I had been told that the NMML would need at least one such letter in order to send somebody from New Delhi to do the needful. I was also told that the matter would be processed but nothing happened after that. The 19th century newspapers had turned into dust by the 1990s and are not available anywhere anymore.

The note to the prime minister also tells us about the “demoralised staff” today. Incidentally, over the 1980s and 1990s the staff of the NMML had serious problems with the establishment. The “Oral History” section did not have any provision to preserve material. This is easily verifiable if one talked to the staff – including some old-timers who have retired.

Despite all its problems, the NMML has come of age and, with all its limitations, it has a lot to offer to a researcher as a repository. In many ways, this particular aspect is related to the stabilising of civil society, in howsoever limited a scale. I am of course not suggesting here that the NMML is in perfect shape right now, since I am yet to know of any institution that is in a half-perfect shape, including those so-called “centres of excellence” that have been cited as examples in the note to the prime minister.

A tragic aspect that normally hijacks any meaningful discussion on how to prevent the decline of institutions is that these seem to be invariably “director-centric”. Even here the flaw seems to be related to

(Continued on p 90)

vol xliv no 29

Economic & Political Weekly


(Continued from p 4)

focusing on the immediate environment and not on the policies, per se.

Do institutions like the NMML and the National Archives deserve bureaucratic heads? How are they to function? Do they have any rational system of selection – of both the Fellows and the experts who sit on judgment to select the former – and do they justify the amount of resources that are spent (including the fellowships granted to scholars) on these institutions?

One should be appreciative of the concerned scholars for suggesting the detailed parameters that should guide the process of selection of the new director. It would have been in fact wonderful if they had suggested a shortlist of “non-partisan scholars” of “international repute” to head the NMML, so that their “opponents” could have done likewise – and who knows, a serious consensus-building exercise could


have led to the location of some common factors that could form the basis of the final selection?

But more seriously, the acid test would be to see the shape of the present “concerns” and the “form” in which they are expressed, and who expresses them after August 2009 or whenever the next director is appointed. One can only hope that, as usual, this would not affect scholars who work in the different sections of the library. And also that a librarian is appointed and the vacant/dissolved posts filled up sooner than later – another feature that transcends the “past” vs“present” dichotomy.

Biswamoy Pati


NMML – 2

he memorandum to the prime minister on the Nehru Memorial Museum & L ibrary is unnecessarily alarmist.


The signatories of the memorandum are right that NMML is one of its own kind. The fact that there is just one NMML seems to be the main problem. The scarcity of institutions like NMML evokes the desire in everyone to rule over it for some time and to direct its fate for some purpose. But, alas, only one person is appointed as its director and the practice is to appoint such a person for a few years. The founder-director of NMML served for 14 years and his successor for 17 years.

The contest between different schools of historiography has acquired life and blood. It is being shifted from the realm of ideas to quibbling about institutions run by “Others”, ironically in the name of “pluralism and ecumenism” by the petitioners.

Bhupendra Yadav

Fellow, NMML,




july 18, 2009 vol xliv no 29

Economic & Political Weekly

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