Libraries have received only 10 percent of the amount owed to them.
Bengaluru: Torn pages and low stock of required books are adding to the pile of problems that public libraries are facing in Bengaluru. They need the money to fix the books and buy new ones but have no access to the funds that are allotted to them.
Bengaluru citizens pay six percent of their property tax as Library Cess. But the whole amount does not reach them at all. “BBMP owes us Rs 500 crores since the last five years. Out of this, we’ve only received Rs 50 crores,” says Dr. Satishkumar S. Hosamani, Director, Department of Public Libraries.
In the 2017-18 budget report, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) collected Rs 95.34 crores from people as library cess. Out of this, they used only Rs 29.09 crores for the construction and maintenance of the libraries. In that year, they owed the libraries approximately Rs 66.25 crores Mr. M. Venkata Chalapathy who is the joint commissioner (revenue) in BBMP said, “We have to give the taxpayers’ money to the libraries. We cannot default on that, but it takes time to do that.” He said that it will take two or three years to do so, but eventually, the money would be given to the libraries.
Dr. Hosamani said that the department of public libraries has written a lot of letters to the BBMP but all of them have been unanswered.
Mr. Chalapathy says that the BBMP is seeking help from the state government for funds because they are trying to increase the BBMP infrastructure. They are planning to bring more wards to Bengaluru. “We have to spend more when we collect very little,” he says. The low tax collection makes it difficult to tap into the funds. BBMP does not even have money to provide proper salaries to their employees.
Ms. Kshitija Joshi, an Economist from the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) says that this money not reaching the libraries is “underfunding of public goods”. She says that if the money is being used for the development of the public infrastructure then that is good. But if they are using it to hike employee salaries then that is a waste of resources.
The City Library Authority, under its jurisdiction, collects this cess to develop and maintain the libraries, as per the Karnataka Public Libraries Act, 1965. But regular readers at the libraries also complain about the inconvenience that they face frequently.
Aishwarya a frequent reader at the City Central Library, South Zone said, “The water filters don’t work properly. Also, there is only one washroom for three halls of the library and even in that the latch doesn’t work.” Aishwarya has complained about this many times but the library does not take any measures to fix this. “It makes it inconvenient to sit for long hours.”
Umesh has been coming to the City Central Library, South Zone for a year now. “The library is very well maintained. I get all the books that I need. But during summers their sheds get heated up. So, it becomes difficult to sit under them,” he says.
The library assistant at City Central Library, South Zone says, “The library works normally most days. But sometimes people pull out pages from the books and it creates chaos.”