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Preserving India’s archives

Context:

  • The National Archives is the primary repository of documents on India’s past. The last time it was in the news was in 2016 when digital copies of files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose were made publicly accessible. The imminent demolition of its annexe by the Government of India has brought the institution to public attention once again.
  • A petition by leading Indian and foreign scholars is in circulation demanding that the government show greater openness in the proposed demolition of the National Archives annexe and the safe storage of its contents since “several centuries of India’s history lie in the documents that make up the National Archives of India”.

Relevance:

GS-I: History, GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Archives of India (NAI)
  2. Poor shape of National Archives

National Archives of India (NAI)

  • The National Archives of India (NAI) is a repository of the non-current records of the Government of India and holds them in trust for the use of administrators and scholars.
  • Originally established as the Imperial Record Department in 1891, in Calcutta, the capital of British India, the NAI is situated at the intersection of Janpath and Rajpath, in Delhi.
  • It functions as an Attached Office of the Department of Culture under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
  • The holdings in the National Archives are in a regular series starting from the year 1748.
  • The National Archives of India also holds regular exhibitions such as the display of declassified files on Subhas Chandra Bose in 2016 and the recent exhibition, “The Jammu and Kashmir Saga”, commemorating 70 years of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India which was held from 10 January 2018 to 10 February 2018.
  • The archival records include 4.5 million files, 25,000 rare manuscripts, more than 100,000 maps, treaties, 280,000 premodern documents and several thousand private papers.

Objectives of Indian National Archives

  • The National Archives of India envisions to help in spreading a feeling of national pride in our documentary cultural heritage and ensuring its preservation for posterity.
  • It aims to encourage the scientific management, administration and conservation of records all over the country.
  • Another key objective of NAI is that it aims to foster close relations between archivists’ and archival institutions, both at the national and international levels.
  • To encourage greater liberalization of access to archival holdings.
  • To help in developing greater professionalism and a scientific temper among creators, custodians and users of records for proper care and use of our documentary heritage.

Poor shape of National Archives

  • A series of articles published in The New York Times in 2012 talk about the parlous state of the National Archives, focusing on the letters penned by Mohandas K. Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Gopalkrishna Gokhale, and other eminent Indian nationalists that have suffered from exposure to humid weather, staff negligence and mishandling, and improper preservation methods.
  • Another article in 2021 pointed to lack of expertise to manage acquisitions which has led to “the locking up of some of the rare documents in Persian, Urdu, Arabic, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil, Malayalam, and Modi (records from Maharashtra)”.

-Source: The Hindu

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