Manuscripts Mission seeks more funds from government

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (UNI) The second phase of the National Manuscripts Mission (NMM), mandated to preserve India's five million known manuscripts, will need a budget of Rs 50 crore during the XIth Plan to carry out its mission, says a top official associated with the project.

''During the Tenth Plan, NMM was sanctioned Rs 35 crore. Given the magnitude of preserving, cataloguing and disseminating information on India's opulent wealth of manuscripts, the Mission would require a substantial hike in its budgetary allocation,'' IGNCA Member-Secretary K K Chakravarty said.

The NMM, set up in 2003 by the then NDA government, would be completing its first phase in March next year.

The UPA government has decided that the Mission would now function under the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), which works under the Culture Ministry.

Mr Chakravarty said the NMM, in its first phase, achieved tremendous success in locating and preserving manuscripts scattered all over the country.

''During the second phase, our task will be to build a digital resource network with significant repositories of manuscripts; and to work for the collation and reconstruction of material on specific themes and subjects,'' he said.

He said the NMM would set up a National Electronic Manuscript Library, with an in-built provision for scholarly access, e-publishing and cyber teaching; for building a digital resource network with significant repositories of manuscripts; and to work for the collation and reconstruction of material on specific themes and subjects.

''We would also launch a digital network and web-link for the study of manuscripts in a historical perspective,'' he added.

Mr Chakravarty said a major objective of the organisation would be to ensure easy access and legibility of manuscripts by standardised transliteration of manuscripts, written in the same language but in different scripts.

IGNCA will also create a multi-media exhibition based on illustrated manuscripts, generated by the epic, literacy and scholarly traditions of the country.

''The exhibition, based on digitised material, can travel easily from place to place for enhancing awareness and encouraging efforts in conservation,'' he pointed out.

About the problems, Mr Chakravarty said, a major challenge was to create a corpus of experts who could read manuscripts. ''The knowledge of materials is inadequate and there is a need to find readers of manuscripts,'' he said.

Also, a large number of manuscripts are in private collections as well as in temples and monasteries. ''The problem confronting us is to convince the private collectors to hand these over to us, albeit temporarily, for making their electronic copies,'' he said.

Dr Chakravarty also said IGNCA plans to correct the excessively chemical emphasis of conservation laboratories in favour of indigenous materials and techniques for preservation of manuscripts.

In addition, efforts would be made to explore the location and culture-specific applications of the knowledge systems embodied in the manuscripts from different zones.

Set up by the Culture Ministry in 2003, the NMM's mandate is to locate, preserve and promote the manuscript wealth of the country.

Its activities range from conducting nation-wide surveys to unearthing, documenting and cataloguing each manuscript.

The NMM has so far documented over two million of the five million manuscripts, and the data pertaining to these will shortly be made available online through the use of a software -- e-granthavali -- developed for the purpose.

UNI

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