Manipur district cleans up to read up: Street libraries replace garbage dumps

by IANS |

Imphal, Dec 3 (IANS) Zeliangrong village in Naga dominated Tamenglong district hit the headlines about a decade back when the mountainous district’s young and dynamic Deputy Commissioner (DC) Armstrong Pame built a 100-km much needed road with the help of the people sans funds from the government.

As development takes place at a snail’s pace there, Tamenglong finds a place in the list of the most backward districts of the country as reports of people carrying sick people through the jungles on foot to hospitals, lack of government infrastructure among others keep coming in from the district.

The arrested development prompted civil society and local bodies to raise their voice for uplifting the district along with others.

After Pame, many deputy commissioners posted in Tamenglong too expended their maximum efforts to develop the district in all spheres.

Amid the people’s yearning for progress, Dr L Angshim Dangshawa came to Tamenglong district as its new DC a few months ago. Soon after joining, he came up with new ideas to develop the district and executed one of them for education and public hygiene which fetched good results.

On September 15, under his initiative, five mini “Street Libraries” were set up at different garbage dumping sites after cleaning the trash at Tamenglong town, about 145 km from Imphal.

The roadside libraries are a small bookshelf measuring a little over two feet in breadth and about three feet in length in different colours, and they stand without a lock at five locations - TBC Junction, Old Market, Rani Gaidinliu Market, Medical Gate and Bethel Church Road Junction.

Inspiring quotes are written on the shelves with one of them reading “The reader does not steal and the thief does not read.”

According to Dangshawa, the small project has been taken up to encourage young children to learn, maintain discipline and sincerity as well as inspire the general public to keep the town neat and clean.

The 31-year-old DC, along with his subordinate staff and the public cleaned the area and set up the mini libraries.

It was part of the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign under the theme, “Garbage Free India” which ended on October 2.

Though many schemes remained either dysfunctional or were scrapped after a good beginning, the road side mini library initiative truly worked as a team of journalists, who visited the district a few days back, found them functional with young students thronging them.

No garbage was found in the street library areas.

“Many people have donated books for the street libraries. So far, the libraries are functional with young children coming and taking books. In some cases, they have returned the books and, in some cases they have not returned them. Some students have also put new books by themselves,” the DC said.

“Let’s wait and see for some more time. I named the library ‘Garbage or Knowledge ?’. This is just a message asking the people whether you choose garbage or you choose the library,” added Dangshawa.

Dangshawa, who was a sub-divisional magistrate at Paomata in Senapati district before his Tamenglong posting, added that he has also taken some initiatives in the health and education sectors in the district which have also yielded good results.

A Class VIII student of Kendriya Vidyalaya Jaikanglung, who was looking at the books at one of the libraries said “This is my first visit to this library. I have chosen a book to read and after reading I’ll return it.”

His friends who had been visiting the library frequently said they were very happy to have such a library here. Earlier the area was full of garbage and now it is clean, they said.

President of the Rongmei Naga Students’ Organisation Manipur Daichui Gangmei, while appreciating the deputy commissioner’s library initiative said “we want to say a big thank you to the DC for his initiatives taken in the district.”

Stating that the initiative has given an impetus to the habit of reading books among the people, particularly the students, Daichui urged all philanthropists of the district to donate more books to the street libraries.

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