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HVK Archives: Endless projects turn ICHR into an expensive joke

Endless projects turn ICHR into an expensive joke - The Asian Age

Josy Joseph ()
June 24, 1998

Title: Endless projects turn ICHR into an expensive joke
Author: Josy Joseph
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: June 24, 1998

The appalling apathy of the Indian Council of Historical
Research, which is the official agency for documenting and
promoting Indian history, has had a telling effect on the
performance of the institute.

The ICHR, which was in the news recently for the reconstitution
of its supreme council with pro-RSS historians, has failed to
complete most of the projects it has undertaken in the last 20
years. Several hundred manuscripts are missing from its custody
or are totally damaged and the number of fellowships it awards to
research students have recorded an all-time low.

Established for ncouraging and fostering the writing of
history," the council has yet to complete some of the major tasks
it undertook.

Only one volume of the Towards Freedom series, which intended to
record the last 10 years of the Indian independence movement
after consuming almost Rs 2 crores, has been published.

The most ambitious programme of the council, this project was
supposed to be the Indian answer to Her Majesty's Transfer of
Power 1937-47, the British view of the Indian Independence
Movement.

The ICHR project took off in a grand way and the exchequer spent
Rs 2 crores but till date only one of the 10 volumes has been
published. Almost every prominent historian in the country is
associated with the project, but the Towards Freedom 1937-47
still remains a paper tiger against the much popular series
published by Britain.

Another ambitious project to record the Economic History of India
Under British Rule is yet to make any headway after the council
spent about Rs 20 lakhs on the project. "The Economic History of
India Under British Rule project has totally collapsed," says a
senior historian who did not want to be identified. ICHR engaged
a group of senior historians, including A.K. Bagchi and Irfan
Habib, for its editorial team, however, not a single volume has
been published since the last five years.

Documents for the first two volumes are yet to be screened,
edited and prepared although they were collected about two years
back. Under the project, three sets of documentations are yet to
be completed: (1) Railway Construction in India (1832-1869) (2)
Railway Construction in India (1869-1900) and (3) Railway Finance
in India (1849-1900). A unique attempt to create a Dictionary of
Historical Inscriptions has almost been abandoned although the
council has hired top historians for the project.

The worst example of the council's apathy is the neglect of
valuable manuscripts which were prepared almost 20 years ago. The
council in 1972-73 selected 85 history books for translation into
major 12 Indian languages. Investigations reveal that about 500
such manuscripts were submitted to the council. Except for a few
books in Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali, the rest are yet to see
the light of the day. Most of them me missing, many damaged
beyond repair. According to sources, the council has spent about
a total of Rs 50 lakh on the project, but the manuscripts are
gathering dust in a store room at the ICHR headquarters.

There has been a marked decline in the number of publications
printed by the council in last few years. Except for a few Hindi
publications and periodicals, the ICHR has failed to come out
with any noticeable book. Making its intentions clear, the
council has not published the ICHR Research Funding Rules, the
guidebook for those aspiring to avail scholarship facilities.
Setting new trends in institutionalised neglect of higher
education, ICHR has recorded an all time low number of
fellowships and support to scholars. According to council's
annual report, in 1996-97 ICHR awarded just four research
projects compared to 14 in the previous year, 19 fellowships
compared to 63 in 1995-96 and 30 study/travel contingency
compared to 83 the year before.


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