Mumtaz, the IAS Officer, Lights the Way Through Libraries
Notorious for spreading the illegal “phishing activity’’ – a cybercrime- not long ago, Jamtara district in Jharkhand is now at the forefront of promoting free and accessible education.
And this is all due to young and dynamic District Magistrate (DM) of Jamtara, Mr Faiz Ahmed Mumtaz (IAS). With a lightning speed, he has been converting old, dilapidated buildings into libraries- the new temples of learning for the people.
Over the last three months, he has transformed 30 abandoned government buildings into libraries under different panchayats of the district. And he aims at ensuring all the 118 panchayats of the district having such libraries by the middle of this year.
Mumtaz says that the idea is to provide a better environment to develop reading habits and space at the doorstep of rural youths so that they can clear competitive exams without moving out to cities and towns.
The renovated buildings – libraries — are provided a general set of books, chairs, tables and other amenities through crowd-funding and under the Corporate Social Responsibility funds. These libraries are then handed over to local villagers for day-to-day management by forming a committee.
Mumtaz believes that his initiative is serving two purposes. One, the dilapidated buildings are put to use after renovation. Two, it develops a community feeling among the villagers.
Librarian, the president of the library and the treasurer are being selected from among the locals who provide purely volunteer service .In addition, bank account has been opened for each community library where contributions from the public will be collected. Provisions are also made for purchasing books, paying bills and upgrading the library from time to time. After the library is built and commissioned, it is handed over to the community.
The availability of books in these libraries is being ensured under public participation. Where modest expenditure is required, resources are being mobilized by convergence of different departments. For example, PHD is providing tap facilities; the electricity department is providing electricity the bills will be borne by the local community. At the same time, resources like tables, cupboards are being raised from CSR funds. Books through donations and contributions are also coming.
In a recent interview to the press, Mumtaz said, “As other institutions in the district operate from 9 to 5 pm, the libraries have been handed over to the community where they have the freedom to make their own rules for the operation of the library. The committee formed in each panchayat which will be overseen by the Gram Sabha and will manage the libraries. Retired teachers or social activists have been appointed as librarians.”
He added, “Apart from this, an account has been opened for each community library where the contribution from the public will be collected. Provisions are also made to buy books, pay bills, and upgrade a library periodically. After the library is constructed and is made operational, it is handed over to the community, with no involvement thereafter of the district administration.’’
As most people in these village panchayats are seeing such libraries for the first time in their life, there is a feeling of excitement among them. To check the response of people in these villages, some members of the administration went for a random visit and found that a bunch of children were already devouring the books with keen interest.
It may be noted that Jamtara had gained recognition for its phishing operations, which was featured in a Netflix show called ‘Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega’. Thankfully, now, officers like Mumtaz are scripting an altogether different, and much more inspiring, story of this place.