Wednesday, August 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Punjab State Archives

I TOOK time, while visiting the city of Patiala, to sit and examine some of the documents on my favourite subject of study in the Punjab State Archives.

I was welcomed enthusiastically by the staff, since it is not everyday happening that there is an Indian visitor. Indeed, the State Archives receives more foreign visitors, particularly from Britain and Canada, than Indians interested in their past. I spent nearly two hours going through the preserved documents, and also spent some time in the Art Gallery under development.

There was some amount of satisfaction among the staff, and expectations that after a long time there was somebody in the state government heading the Department of Culture, who was taking interest in the affairs of the State Archives. As this seems to be a fact, I can only submit that let this interest not be short-lived. The Punjab State Archives requires, in fact, being rescued from a real dismal future.

Studying the recent history of Punjab can be the most fascinating scholastic activity. Yet Punjab suffers from this cultural input in great measure, and Punjabis themselves occasionally feel this deficiency, and make fun of it. There is, otherwise, no good reason why museum visits in Punjab by citizens are so infrequent. There is another issue that those supposed to supervise and preserve historical documents are such passing birds themselves that unless having a special scholastic inclination, they prefer to ignore the departments which are located in the peripheral areas of their places of work.


My visit to the Archives was, therefore, a personal shock. As I waded through the documents shown to me, I could realise their intrinsic value, the potential to attract tourists.

The first thing I noticed was that this building was not fire-proof. There is no fire drill existing for the staff, and the building has inflammable material, which is simply stacked. The archive management defies the laws of preservation of documents. It is ill-equipped because there is no money sanctioned for upgrading the facilities year after year. An old photocopying machine has not been repaired for the past five years when this should have been a public service facility. Therefore, scholars cannot take copies of the documents they desire. There is no digital scanner, and no micro-filming facility. The visitors do not have the experience of knowing what all the Punjab State Archives holds, and it can take a lot of time for the inquisitive visitor to reach after many days the relevant material he seeks, because there is no detailed indexing of the material available.

The rescue work of the Punjab State Archives can be taken up if there is a new non-governmental organisation in Patiala which collects funds in public interest, and enters into an agreement with the Department of Culture, Punjab, to launch a sustained programme of preservation and documentation of the material housed here. It would be asking for too much to create a new permanent home for the Punjab State Archives because this would be an ideal solution for the long-term preservation of the historical past of Punjab.

I cannot complain against the staff. They are good people, and wise in years. Those nearing retirement will take away a tremendous amount of experience of looking after the documents collected in the past four decades. Their association should be allowed in an honorary capacity as visitors and consultants. For, in the absence of a detailed index classification, these people at least know where to find some of the relevant documents in the shelves and bundles.

New Delhi

An extravaganza

Indian Olympic organisers seem to have been disappointed as per Press reports that India may not get a chance to host the 2006 Asian Olympic Games. I personally feel that it is a happy news. To me, the anxiety of our organisers to host such an extravaganza when our economy and our revenue are in doldrums is to mock at the poor in this country.

We have also seen how arguments of the sports being encouraged and getting a fillip have been falsified, notwithstanding India having hosted Asiad Olympic-1986.

Most of the stadium building has remained unoccupied, resulting in a loss of millions of rupees to the national exchequer.

I wish our bureaucrats would try to understand that our first priority is to rehabilitate the poor slum-dwellers, to provide water to the rural areas and not indulge in this so-called grandiloquent scheme. Let our resources be used for socially more sensitive areas.

former Chief Justice, High Court of Delhi
New Delhi

Misuse of Army uniform

The letter relating to the “Misuse of Army uniform” by Mr Pritam Bhullar (Aug 2) is, indeed , thought-provoking. It is a pity that armed forces’ uniforms are being misused (without any reservations and restrictions). Extremists and terrorists are duping and looting people disguised in military uniforms. Anti-social persons enter banks, factories, mills, restaurants, residential colonies, etc, in Army uniform and loot the people at gunpoints.

It has now become a common practice that private security agencies and owners of factories, restaurants, farm-houses, big shops and plush colonies provide security guards with the Army uniform. They wear unauthorised items like web and sam-brown belts, barets, jungle hats, peak-caps, badges of ranks and insignia/apaulets, etc. Even workers on road side are seen wearing uniform bearing NCO’s stripes. There is no check either by the civil or military police (rather it is the law of the jungle that prevails). This unbearable practice involves great security risk.

The Army Act, clothing and equipment regulations and the IPC, Section 171, clearly lay down that the wearing of the Army uniform by unauthorised persons is a serious offence and calls for severe punishment. It is mentioned that wearing of this uniform is the sole prerogative of defence persons (and none else).

The government must, therefore, issue the necessary instructions and warn the private security agencies against the misuse of the military uniform. Civil and military police personnel should be authorised to arrest an offender.

M. L. Batura


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