It has rightly been named after Nalanda—India’s ancient centre of learning that existed long before the world’s best universities came into being.
The Nalanda Parisar in the heart of Raipur is Chhattisgarh’s latest innovation in the education sector that has taken the city by storm. This 24×7 library, opened to the public in June, already has 600 members with 900 applications in the waiting.
That such a unique concept emerged from Chhattisgarh – which is only 18 years old—is not surprising for the State has come up with out-of-the-box innovations in the education sector including an Education City in the Left-Wing Affected Dantewada district.
Spread over 6 acres of land, the Nalanda Parisar is a green education hub for youth with indoor and outdoor reading facilities. The fully air-conditioned double-storeyed building, also known as the Youth Tower, has a huge landscaped open space where students can study. It has a capacity to accommodate 1000 students at a given point.
On the ground floor are stacked 50,000 books many of which were collected during a donation drive. The first floor is a well-equipped virtual library with 112 computers. The roof-top is also being developed to accommodate the members.
According to Mr Kedar Patel , Nodal and Employment Officer at the Nalanda Parisar, the focus is on preparing the students for cracking competitive examinations. The Youth Tower not only provides books and other facilities for the aspirants to prepare themselves but also an enabling environment, he adds.
The library has books in Hindi and English published by NCERT, Chhattisgarh Board and those for cracking competitive examinations for civil services, railways, GATE, IIT, banking, and PMT among others. It has a collection of biographies of well known personalities including Prime Ministers and Presidents of India. A small section has been dedicated to Chhattisgarhi books as well.
Brainchild of Mr O.P.Choudhury, District Collector of Raipur, the library has come up in a record time of 10 months at a cost of Rs 18 crore, of which Rs 15.21 crore came from the District Mineral Foundation and Rs 2.44 crore from Raipur Smart City Limited. The project is financially self sustaining as some portion of the complex will be run commercially that would generate enough funds to run the library.
Having lost his father at a very early age, Mr Choudhury remembers the struggles his mother had to face even to get a basic entitlement like family pension. He studied in a government school in village in Raigarh district with limited resources. Even when he was preparing for his civil services examinations between 2000 and 2002, Mr Choudhury had to struggle to find reference books even in Raipur and Bhilai. Of the 50 reference books he needed, he could find only 5 to 7. He also recalls his days in the Delhi University where preferred to study in the open air on the roof-top.
All these real life situations have made him resolve that things must change. The library is run by the Nalanda Parisar Prabandhan Society chaired by the District Collector and the CEO Zila Panchayat as its vice chairperson.
The open space has 18 gazebos and canopies, and LED lights while the entire complex is free wi-fi enabled. Adequate security arrangement has been put in place. At present, outdoor reading is allowed only until 10 p.m. The open area is being developed as a biodiversity park with a artificially created water body as well. The Youth Tower is made of glass so that those inside can see the outside.
There is a one-time fee of Rs 2,500 for the members and a monthly fee of Rs 500. But the monthly charge is only Rs 250 for the members from the disadvantaged sections. The library subscribes to 19 newspapers daily and 34 magazines every month, and allows senior citizens inside the premises. Members of the library include 20 MBBS and some IIT students. Proximity to Ravi Shankar Shukla University, Indian Institute of Technology, Government Science College and National Institute of Technology has made Nalanda Parisar a popular destination for the youth.
“The idea is to provide an enabling environment to the students and develop a knowledge society,’’ says Mr Choudhury. “If we have to reap the demographic dividend, then we must provide them with opportunities and environment, and India has had a culture of Gurukuls and knowledge hub as Nalanda. Hence, we have named the library as Nalanda Parisar,’’ he explains.
Similar projects are being planned elsewhere in the city so that students do not have to travel far to access libraries. In fact, the Chief Secretary has directed all District Collectors to identify spaces for replicating similar models.