This old library in a Punjab village is encouraging the youth to read

Raakhi Jagga
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People at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library, Jeeda.

Way back in 1978, when talking about a library was rare in Punjab’s villages, the residents of Jeeda, a village in Bathinda district, decided to construct a small library on a 100 square yard plot. This plot was a part of the village’s common land, and the library was created with voluntary funds.

The library comprised one big hall and an adjoining room. “We started it with few books on the Communist movement, novels by Punjabi writers and four-five newspapers so that people could gather at one place and develop a love for reading. The library was inaugurated on January 8, 1978, with many villagers being a part of the endeavour and a few books being added from time to time. “With time, the library needed an overhaul and a few months back, the entire structure was demolished and rebuilt again and cost about Rs 20 lakh. The new building is now called Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library, Jeeda, which was inaugurated on March 8 by the villagers in the presence of Professor Jagmohan Singh, nephew of Bhagat Singh and Gurpreet Singh, an eminent artist,” explains Jagmel Singh, president of the library.

The library wears a new look and has a huge collection of books, courtesy a book lover and retired government employee Kewal Krishan Singla, who contributed Rs 15 lakh towards the library. “He belongs to this village, but now lives in Bathinda. Rest of the funds were contributed by the villagers and some NRIs,” adds Jagmel.

The village has a population of over 5000 people and according to Sarabjeet Singh, the secretary of the library, reading is a way to engage the youth. The library, reflects Jagmel, is testimony to the fact that Jeeda has always been a revolutionary village, with the villagers taking part in various movements — praja mandal, communist movements, students movements. “Many of us were fond of reading, so this library was started with around 500 books. Now, in the new library we have over 2000 books that every generation can relate to and we hope it attracts more youngsters and people from everywhere, and not just this village,” says Jagmel.

Authors Baldev Singh Sadaknama, Janwant Kanwal, Gurdial Singh, Saadat Hasan Manto, and Mintu Gursaria among others, find a place of pride on the bookshelves, while the almirahs here have books on history, religion, and mythology. The front wall of the library has a portrait of Bhagat Singh holding a book by Maxim Gorky, written in 1906, with the portrait painted by Bathinda-based artist Gurpreet Singh. “We now have a LED, a computer and a projector and it is now a digital library. With a change in times, we have to upgrade ourselves. The villagers are very happy with the upgrade and we will now also be screening meaningful films through a projector in the second hall,” shares Jagmel.