By Maariyah Siddique
NEW DELHI: To encourage reading culture among students, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia inaugurated 10 ‘mohalla libraries’ in East Delhi on Sunday, April 10 as a part of the initiative ‘Kitabgiri’, originally started by Bhartiya Akshara Social Organisation (BASO).
Under the ‘Kitabigiri’ campaign, BASO encourages the donation of books to ‘mohalla libraries’ to promote the joy of joining a vast network of the city’s bibliophiles. Sisodia calls it a “revolutionary” step to revive the declining reading habits among students, who often due to syllabus pressure and expensively priced books. “When we read we are able to see beyond closed doors through our literary minds. That is obviously no longer the case as among students reading habits are certainly on the decline”, said Indrani Bhattacharya, teaching at S.G.J Public School, Kolkata.
A report released by the National Book Trust in close coordination between National Youth Readership Survey (2009-10) and National Council of Applied Economic Research concluded that “reading habits face a real challenge in the world of TV and internet.” The study titled ‘Youth of North-East India: Demographics and Readership, 2012′ reveals that despite the lack of financial resources, the north-eastern states of India have a higher proportion of readers than the rest of the country, thus skyrocketing the literacy levels in these states. It further states that 43% of the north-east youth are readers as opposed to the Central states who have 85% of non-readers while only 57% makes up the number of non-readers in the northeast.
The contours of the study elaborate to devising a ‘National Action Plan for Readership Development’ among the target age groups 13-35 years and the stakeholders hope to make youth in the age group 12-25 years ‘active readers’ by 2025. “Reading habits among students has been declining in the recent times. Audio-visual aids are more interesting for them than just reading books”, said Saminah Khan, Assistant Professor and resource person for the Oxford University Press.
Amid the disturbing scenario of India’s education system and deteriorating reading culture, the AAP govt is taking care of shifting the trend in the Capital. Besides doubling the budget for education, taking actions against fee hikes in private schools and addressing the infrastructure deficit in government schools, the AAP govt is trying its level best to incorporate the ‘National Action Plan for Readership Development’ in the curriculum through mohalla libraries. The State govt’s maiden budget (2015-16), popularised as the ‘Swaraj Fund’ was passed in June last year with an aim to enable transparency and public participation in budgeting. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia had called the step a pathway to “participative budgeting” achieved through ‘mohalla sabha’ to know the needs of people and accordingly earmark budgets suiting the local requirements. Through Google Satellite Imaging, 40 local colony groups had been identified under the mohalla sabha in the previous year. These groups, consisting of 4000-6000 residents enlisted the local civic requirements after close monitoring and discussion. “It is only the fruitful product of Delhi govt’s successful mohalla sabha and a long term desirable result of the National Book Trust’s study that mohalla libraries have come up,” said an official privy to information, currently working with the ‘Kitabgiri’ campaign in Okhla.
In the current Delhi budget (2016-17) passed on March 22, CM Arvind Kejriwal reiterated his plans on encouraging consensus development and collective decision-making exercises through the continuation of mohalla sabha. The issues of discussion would include road repairs, improving community centres, building mohalla libraries, etc., with a fixed budget of Rs.50 lakh reserved for each sabha. Based on these local public meetings in 11 Constituencies over the last one year, about 2000 locations in the city and around Noida have been selected for building more mohalla libraries with the funds allocated. As expressed during the Budget, reducing the syllabus by 25 per cent comes as a vital support system for the building of more Mohalla libraries so that students can have more time for “cultural, sporting and other extra-curricular activities.”
“The idea of mohalla libraries sounds fulfilling to me since being an outsider I feel I am unable to read books because they are pricey here,” says Schengen Lee, a student of Bachelor’s in English Literature in Delhi.