Dr Jaswant Singh from Michigan started Mobile Library Service
By Gary Singh
- NRI, Dr Jaswant Singh has set up the Anant Memorial Charitable
Trust in the memory of his father.
- Estimated budget for first five years, Rs 80 lakh
- The bus cost him 22 lakh, annual running expense-four
- A bus chugs into the villages of Punjab and parks itself
besides a shady tree where children line up to enter their
library.The Mobile Library Service cover population of 10,000
of four villiages
Stop here for books
An NRI librarian abandons hope of Punjab ever
setting up public libraries. He starts a lending library in
a bus that makes weekly trips to villages
Chandigarh, June 26, 2005
BAJINDER PAL SINGH
CHANDIGARH: WHEN eleven-year-old Mohini waits in her village
for the air conditioned bus to arrive, she is not getting
ready for school. It is not work either. But a one hour getaway,
with lots of fun and yes, education too.
It is a weekly bus, huge by even Punjab standards,
with the luxury of squatting on the floor or just browsing
through books. Books you said? And a bus? Well, the mobile
book van has just arrived in her village. Like every week,
courtesy the brain wave of an NRI librarian who realised that
the state would never set up public libraries, a bus chugs
into the village and parks itself besides a shady tree where
children line up to enter their library.
Years of cajoling officers, pleading with them to establish
public libraries in Punjab never helped. So one morning, with
a few lakhs saved from retirement benefits, this retired librarian
from the US decided to set up a mobile library. ‘‘Let
the village child discover the joy of books,’’
Dr Jaswant Singh says. For most children in rural Punjab,
books continue to be a luxury despite the affluence. In Punjab
villages, where ostentatious living standards has meant that
houses have DVD players, but no books, not many gave Singh
a second chance.
The bus which has bookshelves instead of seats,
goes from one village to another, stopping by for an hour
for the children to borrow books. It arrives again at the
same time next week, so that children can return the books
and borrow new ones.
Like Mohini, for almost all the village kids,
the bus is the only library they have ever seen. The schools
do not have a library and book collections are rare to find.
Collections of Sikhs scriptures is what the printed word means
for many. ‘‘And there are imported books as well,’’
says Jeewandeep, who is astonished at UK printed books which
have dual language story books in English and Punjabi.
THE big bus trying to negotiate narrow village roads is a
strange sight. It took a lot of effort to put it on road.
No one was ready to make such a bus. ‘‘For months,
I just wandered from one builder to another explaining them
the details.’’ Even when it was ready there were
some structural defects that took two months to be put right.
In the nine months that it has run in the
three chosen villages of Jurahan, Ranguwal and Fullowal in
Ludhiana, it has notched a membership of 300. Membership fee
is just Rs 10 for which you get a withdrawal card.
Singh spends close to four months a year in
Punjab for the project. His friend Prof Amarjeet Singh runs
the show in his absence. The bus cost him 22 lakh, while the
annual running expense is another four lakh.
Today, encouraged by the success, NRIs have
started approaching him for creating more such buses for their
village. One of them is converting his old ancestral house
into a library. Singh’s wife is also a librarian, and
he himself has been regional media director in Michigan in
His aim is grand. There has to be a mobile
library in each of the 180 blocks in Punjab, Singh asserts.
He is flying back to US this week, but promises to come back
with more funds, courtesy his US based foundation. More buses,
but more important, with more books.
NRI starts mobile
library at village
Ludhiana, November 3, 2004
It is a dream come true for NRI Dr Jaswant Singh who started
Pahiyanwali Library Sewa at his native village Judahan.
He has used his more than 15 years of experience of serving
as librarian in the US for the mobile library.
The library has more than 1,600 books on all subjects, one
trained driver and a part-time library manager. Dr Jaswant
Singh said, I along with my wife Jasjit Kaur who
is also serving as librarian in the US made 90 per cent efforts
while the 10 per cent contribution we got from other NRIs.
The library has been set by the Anant Education and Rural
Development Trust with an investment of Rs 22 lakh and its
annual expenditure will be between Rs 5 lakh and 6 lakh, which
will also be incurred by the Trust.
To begin with, the library which was inaugurated today by
Prof Prithpal Singh Kapoor, will go in three villages on every
Thursday, said Dr Amarjit Singh, member of the Trust, who
retired as the Head of Department of Journalism, Languages
and Culture from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.
He said, Today, the library visited villages
Judahan, Rangoowal and Phallowal, where books were issued
to readers and they were also given the time table of the
mobile library, so that more people can know about the timings
of the library, so that they may get the books issued and
Dr Jaswant Singh said, Next Thursday, we will
go to the same villages and collect the issued books. This
way every Thursday we will cover three new villages and slowly
we will visit more villages on other days of the week.
Dr Jaswant Singh, who was a lecturer at Malwa Training College,
Ludhiana, went to Canada in the mid-sixties and from here
he moved to the US in the 70s and worked as a librarian
there for more than 15 years. He said, For five
months, I stay in India and for seven months in the US. In
my absence, the other members of the Trust, Dr Amarjit Singh,
Ved Prakash, a retired teacher, Manmohan Singh Virdi, a PCO
owner, and Manmohan Singh Gujjarwal, who will see legal aspects
and other problems of the library, will take care of the library.
Jaswant Singh who regrets that the Punjab Public Library
Act is not being passed by the state government as it is still
lying pending in the office of the Education Secretary. If
this is passed, any village can open a library, they can do
so with the help of the state government, locals and NRIs.
Since 1993, I have been urging the officers of the Punjab
government to pass this Act, but in vain.
Crusader against illiteracy
Chandigarh, November 2, 2004
After winning many awards in western countries, Dr Jaswant
Singh is determined to work for the education of the rural
section in Punjab. He, along with his associates, has launched
a crusade against illiteracy and ignorance through the Anant
Education and Rural Development Foundation. He was also determined
to get the Punjab Public Library Act passed by the state government.
Though various organisations in England, the USA and Canada
honoured him for his work, he yet to be recognised in his
The inauguration of the first phase of multicrore projects
will be done by the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Mr Charanjit
Singh Atwal, on Wednesday. He will also inaugurate Mobile
Library Service for a cluster of villages including Jurahan
(native village of Dr Jaswant Singh), Ranguwal, Jand, Phallewal,
Kalakh and Dhulkot.
The project will be started with one bus covering all 138
blocks in the state. The estimated budget for first five years
amounts to Rs 80 lakh which would be met by the contributions
of members of the Anant Memorial Charitable Trust, Jurahan
in Ludhiana district. The first phase of the project is dedicated
to the Guru Nanak Dev Birth anniversary, claimed organisers
of the library.
Commenting on the state of awareness in the rural area, Dr
Jaswant Singh said it was unfortunate that the successive
governments had ignored the concept of libraries and emphasised
more the need of casinos.
Though Dr Jaswant had been imparting education in Panjabi
University, Patiala, he left the job as the authorities did
not confirmed his job and gave appointment on a contract basis.
He had also tried to get the Punjab Public Library Act enacted
by the state government but with no avail. He said, “Had
the state government passed the Act, the state could have
contributed much more in the central pool of the civil services
as the availability of books would have inculcated reading
habit among children”. He also recounted the efforts
made by Dr Amarjit Singh, former DPI, and Mr N.S. Rattan former
Besides being the proud winner of the Elizabeth Siddall Award
from the Michigan Education Association in recognition of
his work as an educator in the USA, he had been recipient
of the United Nations Award, the Loy Lasalle Award (by the
United Nations Association) and many more prestigious awards.
To educate children about the library service, to promote
literacy rates in schools, to provide a model for the local
government, to generate “grassroot” support for
public library and the immediate enactment of the Punjab Public
Libraries Bill are the motives behind the launching of the
Dr Jaswant Singh with his mobile library; and (right) inside
the library. — A Tribune photograph
Mobile library service launched
Ludhiana, September 14, 2004
Our Correspondent , TRIBUNE
Mobile library service has been launched in five villages
near here with the idea of imparting education to children
and adults. The spirit behind this service is an NRI, Dr Jaswant
Singh , who hails from Jurana village in Ludhiana district.
The service will cover villages namely Jurana, Rangowal, Jand,
Phallewal, Kalakh and Dhurkot, covering a population of more
Dr Jaswant Singh is settled in the USA in Michigan. He has
set up the Anant Memorial Charitable Trust in the memory of
his father. Earnings from a small piece of land in the village
also go for the library service.
Dr Jaswant Singh who was a lecturer in the local Malwa Central
Training College earlier, tells that it was his dream to serve
the people of Punjab after retirement and impart them education
through library services. At Ludhiana, he was teaching geography
and school administration. The aim of the service is to educate
children about what library service is and how to use this
service and to promote literacy and decrease the dropout rate
in schools. This was also aimed at providing a model for local
governments (panchayats) to see the role of the public libraries.
There are about 1600 books, magazines and other forms of
education media available in the mobile van with two computers.
The mobile library has cost Rs 22 lakh and the recurring expenditure
every year will be about Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh. The first
book mobile service was started on November 2003 last year
on the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev. Dr Jaswant Singh says,
“We are launching this service on the guidelines UNESCO”.
Dr Jaswant Singh, who left for Canada in 1964, taught social
studies and Canadian history in Canada and in 1970 he got
a scholarship from the Canadian Government for studies in
the library science at Michigan University where he did his
Ph.D in library administration and settled there. In 1983,
he returned to India and got a job in Punjabi University as
a Reader but had to resign in 1986 and went back to the USA.
Before leaving for the USA, he decided to launch library services
in Punjab and asked the Punjab Government to enact a law of
Punjab Public Library Act.