SRINAGAR: After 14 years of multiple missed deadlines, the Shri Pratap Singh (SPS) Library in Srinagar sees yet another date slip by as the procuring of elevators for the building is still in its initial phase. Officials had earlier maintained that work would be completed here by mid-March. Added to the delay, another problem has arisen in the furniture requisitioned to house the books, which too has been found to not be up to the mark, an official said. Two months ago, Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) told Kashmir Reader that the facility would be thrown open in the first week of January. It had said that the library’s elevators would be ready only by March 2018 as the Library and Research Department was still to release funds to the construction agency. Even now, the officials say Rs 7 crore is yet to be released to the agency, leading to further delay in the library’s completion.
The foundation stone of the SPS Library was laid in 2004 by former chief minister, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The six-storey building was expected to be ready within a year. Shortage of money, official hassles and a court case resulted in the delay, explained an official.
“We were not provided funds at regular intervals by the department. The current estimate of the project is Rs 32 crore, of which funds of Rs 7 crore are still pending,” he said.
When Kashmir Reader contacted the JKPCC managing director, Vaqar Mustfaa Shontu, he said, “The civil and electrical work of the hall on the library’s first floor is still pending as it was occupied by a massive number of books which were kept haphazardly, scattered all over the floor. These were cleared by the Libraries and Research Department only a few days ago. The work on the hall has now started and would take us another month for its remaining part.”
Asked about the delay in the elevators, he said, “We are already on it and the manufacturing of the elevators is underway. OTIS, an Indian elevator construction company, is the production body. We will get the elevators at site by the first week of April this year and hopefully will complete the work pending by the end of April. The funds are still not released by the director Libraries, we owe money to sub-contractors, and the company and the agency are as on date managing the work at their own expense. I request the director Libraries to release the funds as soon as possible.”
When Kashmir Reader contacted the director, Libraries and Research Department, Mukhtar Aziz, he immediately refuted the claims made by the JKPCC officials and said, “Shortage of funds was never the real issue as we have spent around Rs 6 crore in the last year alone for the Library’s completion. Still, I have requested Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for the release of the further funds required at the earliest possible. Hopefully the Library would be thrown open in the first week of May this year.”
“I don’t understand how the estimated cost has doubled over the last decade. Our continuous request to the JKPCC to send us a validated total cost estimate has hit a dead end. We asked for the estimate so as to make out how much more they require and how efficiently they have spent the money that was released,” he added.
“With the delay due to various reasons plus a need for a modernised edifice, the design of the building was changed, escalating its estimated cost to almost double of the earlier estimate made,” confirmed the JKPCC managing director.
“The furniture is not to our taste, we have requested the managing director, JKPCC, to acquire the furniture according to our requirements. We need modernised infrastructure for keeping the books, not the racks used earlier.” Mukhtar said.
Talking further about the SPS Library, the director said, “The building has state-of-the-art architecture. Once completed, it will be home to around 45,000 books and 6,000 manuscripts. Besides this, we will have access to 1.5 crore books through National Digital Library, available online. We are propagating awareness among the masses through advertisements so that the reading culture of the Valley returns.”
Each floor of the building has been differently categorised and is to have sections for children, students, elderly people and government employees as well. The completed library will have a cafeteria as well.