Fund crunch, altered design stall Rajshahi Public Library renovation

The total expenditure of the project exceeded Tk3.27 crore

March 16, 2022, 12:30 p.m.

Last modified: March 16, 2022, 01:18 pm

The renovation work of the historic Rajshahi Public Library is suspended for three years owing to budget shortage and several alterations in the architecture. The reconstruction began five years ago but very little progress has been made so far spending over Tk3.27 crore. Photo: TBS

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The renovation work of the historic Rajshahi Public Library is suspended for three years owing to budget shortage and several alterations in the architecture. The reconstruction began five years ago but very little progress has been made so far spending over Tk3.27 crore. Photo: TBS

The renovation work of the historic Rajshahi Public Library has stalled as construction remains suspended for three years owing to budget shortage and several alterations in its design.

The reconstruction of the century-old library began five years ago, but with a spending bill of more than Tk3.27 crore, very little progress has been made so far.

As of now, it remains uncertain as to when the construction will resume again.

However, Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) officials said work will resume in a month. A new design for the library building is being prepared with fresh allocation.

According to RCC sources, the project for constructing a new five-storey building, including a 300-seat auditorium, in place of the old library at Miapara of the city was taken up in 2017. The project also included making a replica of the old building as a memorial for the younger generation.

The Indian government donated Tk2.57 crore for the project while the city corporation provided Tk70 lakh. The total expenditure of the project exceeded Tk3.27 crore.

Despite dissent from various quarters of society, the 138-year-old building was finally demolished in 2018 and reconstruction began with a hope for completion by 2019. However, it seems that authorities may have underestimated the task or the budget for that matter.

Nur Islam Tushar, supervising engineer of Rajshahi City Corporation, told The Business Standard, “Initially there was no plan of deep foundation or piling work in the design. The main complex was supposed to be built on concrete columns only. However, soil quality of the land was found to be in poor condition later and piling was necessary for the foundation. All the allotted funds went to piling works.”

“However, the city corporation has managed to channel Tk2.78 crore from the Tk3,000 crore fund allotted for various ongoing development projects in the city. A new design is being prepared and we will float fresh tender soon. The construction work will resume within a month,” he added.

The official, however, declined to comment on whether the new design includes a five-storey building and auditorium as proposed earlier.

Towhid Al Masud Rony, proprietor of construction company Rithin Enterprise, claimed that the initial design of the building was altered right after work began. According to the trend, a normal building was supposed to be constructed, but later the design was changed to a high rise building.

“We had to do piling which was not agreed upon at first and it used up all the funding of my contract. The first phase of work has been completed and RCC still owes my company Tk60 lakh. Some other companies will get the tender to carry out the second phase of renovation.

Tajul Islam, general secretary of the Rajshahi Public Library, said, “The construction company initially dug eight-foot deep and found that soil condition is not sustainable for a high rise building. Then they decided to do deep foundation or piling. A total of 42 pilings were done. Columns have been constructed on the piling after filling the soil. All these works took a lot of money to complete.”

According to historical documents, the library was built by Rai Bahadur Kedarnath Lahiri, the zamindar of Kashimpur, on the land donated by Raja Pramadanath Roy, the zamindar of Dighapatia, in 1884.

However, some sources show that the library was originally founded by Raja Anandanath, a descendant of Rani Bhabani, in 1850 which was later renovated by the later patrons. The library was mentioned in WW Hunter’s book ‘Statistical Accounts’, published in 1876.

According to Hunter, the library had only 3,247 books and six periodicals in 1871-72. At that time, there were only nine readers in the library including six British. After the death of Raja Anandanath Roy, his son Raja Chandra Roy used to give a grant of 20 pounds a year for the library. It was once in the Kashimpur House of the old bus stand area and was shifted to Miyapara later.

Currently, the library gets an allocation of Tk60,000 per year from the Jatiya Granthakendra (National Book Centre) including books of Tk30,000 and the remaining half as cash.

Most of the books in the library are rare including the first edition of Shakespeare’s plays published from Scotland, the first edition of some of Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s works, periodicals from the British period, etc. At present, there are about 36,000 books in this library.

Many historical figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhaschandra Bose visited the library.

However, countless important books of the library were lost during the partition of India in 1947 and the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.

Tasikul Islam, vice-president of the library, said, “Many rare books of the library have been destroyed including several books signed by Rabindranath Tagore. After the demolition of the old building, books were removed and stored in a large hall on the third floor of Rajshahi Association.”

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