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On Modi’s directive the Indian home ministry in less than a month, destroyed nearly 1,500,000 files.— AFP file photo
On Modi’s directive the Indian home ministry in less than a month, destroyed nearly 1,500,000 files.— AFP file photo

NEW DELHI: Controll­ing historical memory yields useful dividends in politics. Destroying historical evidence is a time-tested strategy of autocrats, clai­med academics and other assorted protesters here on Tuesday after Indian prime minister got hundreds of thousands of “historically relevant” files destroyed.

Times of India said on Mr Modi’s directive the Indian home ministry has gone on ‘a cleanliness drive’ and, in less than a month, destroyed nearly 1,500,000 files that had gathered dust for years.

While going through the almirahs of North Block, where the ministry is loca­ted, officials also found some interesting files which gave an insight to some historic moments, the paper said.

One of these files was about the presidential sanction given to pay India’s first governor general Lord Mountbatten a princely sum of Rs64,000 as TA/DA allowance for moving back to his country.

In today’s terms, the amount will be equivalent to several crores of rupees, a ministry official said.

Another snippet that came out was that after India’s first president Rajendra Prasad refused to take any pension, it was eventually sent to the government’s calamity fund.

Even the salary of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was sent to the calamity fund after he refused it, the files showed.

Crucially, another file has details about the cabinet meeting that was called before the death of Maha­tma Gandhi was annou­nced, an official said.

Asked if these files of historic value were saved or junked, an official expres­sed ignorance, the report said.

Academics suspected the government’s motive in ordering the destruction of priceless historical sources.

“In the absence of any assurance that files of historical value will be preserved or even vetted bef­ore being destroyed, all those who respect knowledge and historical resea­rch have cause to be gravely alarmed at this news,” wrote historian Dilip Simeon.

“The files destined for the shredders may be of the highest historical value and it is unacceptable that the prime minister and home minister should destroy them without a transparent vetting process by respec­ted scholars… India’s historical archive is not the private property of the RSS and Mr Modi,” Mr Simeon said.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Comments (42) Closed

Faruq Jun 25, 2014 07:10am

It's hard to learn from our past mistakes when we destroy our records of them. I hope that the files are at least scanned and saved in a database. It shouldn't take too much effort to do that. Maybe some could be made available to the public through library systems

Prakash Jun 25, 2014 07:49am

Modi has ordered for cleanliness drive of the working space and One need to see the mountain of files every nook and corner in India's central Secretariat.In our home also it is advised that one should dispose things which has not been used for three years to keep house clean.Modi has become PM for the first time , so he does not have old files to destroy.Alternatively, paper files could have been converted to microfilming, which would have been time consuming and expensive.To impute motive in each and everything is sign of bias.

matteroffact Jun 25, 2014 08:26am

After all it's Modi, what else did you expect ?

Guk Jun 25, 2014 08:32am

@parkash, Modi does not seems to have any personal motive to destroy these files, however, in his eagerness to start afresh he may inadvertently be the cause of loss of artefacts of historical importance. His so called good governance does not seems to have a system (framework) to it but seems to rely more on personal whim and gut feeling. This also does not reflect well on his vision and general understanding of running a country.

Ifti Jun 25, 2014 09:16am

@Prakash I think the issue is not about clearing the space,it is about sorting the valuable documents out before destruction. Every government office has a due procedure for that. Anyhow, you are right that viewing conspiracy in every thing is a bad sign. The government will definitely have a plausible explanation for it.

HAIDER Jun 25, 2014 09:55am

Should have auction these files , Govt could make lot of money.

Shamsher Jun 25, 2014 10:05am

@Guk What historical documents? Do you think anyone care about those, If someone would have cared about those they should have been not in this condition where files had gathered dust for years and no-one seemed interested till Modi ordered to destroy these.

Gp65 Jun 25, 2014 10:16am

No one is viewing this cleanliness drive as a drive to destroy hisorical files except Congress lackeys. There is no alarm in India.

The purpose of the cleanliness drive is to have a working environment that promotes efficiency and prompt decision making nothing more and nothin less. He has nothing to gain from destroying historical files,

sharabi Jun 25, 2014 10:38am

They are creating Digital Library, Mr. MODI is right. He had incorporated Paperless e-system in Gujarat secretariat.

Azad Sundar Jun 25, 2014 10:39am

" India

Vatsyayan Jun 25, 2014 10:46am

@Faruq Sahab, Modi is digital and a tech savy person. All the data had been computerised before and is now on internet. He has vowed to make India a digital country in next couple of years. And example to this is the augmentation of 4G in 20 cities of india in less than a month of his swearing in

ProudtobeanINDIAN Jun 25, 2014 10:47am

People are not fools to destroy important files as described by the author... Come on... He ordered to destroy unwanted, not important files which can be scanned and made a soft copy...

Sheikh Khalid Jun 25, 2014 10:57am

55 Million Dollars for them unwanted files:)

Salim Bevda Jun 25, 2014 10:59am

While one understands the need for good housekeeping, I can't believe that there is no documented policy on archiving and destruction of old documents within the highest offices in the Indian government. Good governance comes with establsihing transparent processes; not by shadowy actions like these. Please seize these historic moments and come out clean, Mr. Modi.

Sanjeev Jun 25, 2014 11:11am

These files will be restored digitally in every possibility no need to keep hard copy in this digital age. Smart move Mr. Modi.

Shahzad Jun 25, 2014 11:20am

nations who dont remember their history will definitely in their future. Through these efforts, Indian state tried to manipulate facts and it seems an effort to deprive upcoming generations from reading and getting to the facts and all wrong doings their so called custodians of democracy did. Without keeping digital record of these files, Indians government also tried to revert the trend where thousands years old political and social history of south asia is preserved and available which through this act will be vanished.

indian_hindu Jun 25, 2014 11:21am

Cmmon people. Stop your Modi phobia. He is our elected leader and when Congress screwed our nation from 60years, let Modi do his own way of politics and work. We will see in some years all his work and tactics are benefical to india or vice versa. I have been to Govt offices and believe me all the junk files need to be burned or didgitized

Sheikh Khalid Jun 25, 2014 11:23am

Modi is just playing with India like a chalk board in a primary school.

IKE Jun 25, 2014 11:27am

Destruction of historical evidence is first step.....what is next?.....Historical sites?.....Then historical neighbors?

Maznah Jun 25, 2014 11:33am

He and his cronies have their reasons, no doubt!

Moiz Omar Jun 25, 2014 11:38am

It is a shame that they are destroying historical records.

John, Canada Jun 25, 2014 12:04pm

Hope the files of Mughal and British era are not destroyed. There is lot of lessons to be learned from them. I read several books based on such data. Some of the books are last Mughal and white Mughals etc.

irshad Jun 25, 2014 12:17pm

This is History. Files should go to a Liberary or may be given to a Liberary. Jun 25, 2014 12:35pm

@Vatsyayan,Totally agree with you. Keeping in view his achievements in Gujrat , it seems that "India is going to break all records of progress. If some is devoted to his country & wants to go beong the limits , we should have to appreciate him.

DBC Jun 25, 2014 12:48pm

Are they destroying records after converting into soft form. If it is done than it is okay. What is the guarantee than the record gets digitized before it gets destroyed. ?

ala Jun 25, 2014 02:14pm

If these were historical files then where were this historians like simons. Funny fellows they see conspiracies every where.

Taimoor Khan Jun 25, 2014 02:17pm

I am sure there is a lot much to it then just simple some innocent files about someone pension and TA/DA claims. Trying to hide India ugly past?

Sita Ram Bansal Jun 25, 2014 07:34pm

If files are to be burnt it is better to preserve the record of these files in micro films.

anony Jun 25, 2014 09:39pm

India 'literally' MODIfied, LOL.

Tamil Arasan Jun 25, 2014 10:53pm

In this digital world no need to keep 50 or 100 year old paper files protected - scan them and burn those unwanted files for work efficiency, PM Sri NaMo is doing good job, or else the government offices will look like a junk yard with so many unwanted things...

Genesis Jun 26, 2014 03:21am

Many countries preserve these records and send it to their archives department. The least that could have been done was to digitize them for future historians.Modern record keeping is not related to the size of files or space occupied by them. If this attitude persist there will be no History at all. The British were and are still great at keeping records and opening it for the public after about 40 years. They published the monumental Transfer of Power giving a record to the public on Independence and its progress.

Shahid Iqbal Jun 26, 2014 06:15am

Modi is not very educated and would not appreciate the historic value of it. All he is trying to make the government more efficient. Please stop looking everything a conspiracy.

Shahid Iqbal Jun 26, 2014 06:23am

Modi is not very intellectual and would not appreciate historical value associated with some of the files. All he is trying to make his government more efficient. Please stop looking everything as a conspiracy.

Sheikh Khalid Jun 26, 2014 06:35am

A good thing to do would be to let school kids read them. put the files (physically, but after digitally listing the files, not full content scans), in the "Indian School Library System", equally divided between all libraries, each keeping their apportioned files for 1 year at a time, for the next 10 years. After each year the files should/could be exchanged with other such apportioned collections in the Indian school library system. During these 10 years have the students write a five page synopsis about what they have read in that year if these files. Assign no grade, make it a curriculum requirement. the smell of the paper counts for a lot. do this for 10 years, THEN Digitize the full contents and burn the hard copies if you still want to:):) Then it becomes India's hard working intellectuals' domain. Beware the kids though:):):):)

sam Jun 26, 2014 08:43am

and the drive is for cleanliness .. gotta get rid of pack-rats attitude .. FYI .. the docs were electronically scanned, archived and then hard copies (that were weather beaten ) were destroyed .. Digital copies will soon be made available for general public ..

Roshan Jun 26, 2014 04:17pm

@Shahid Iqbal - In 1978, Modi graduated with an extramural degree through Distance Education in political science from Delhi University. completed his Master's degree in political science from Gujarat University. He still continues to visit Belur Math occasionally and talks about his reverence for the Ramakrishna Mission.

source wikipedia

Azhar-sgr Jun 27, 2014 02:18pm

If you ever went to govt office you would definitely destroy these dusty files.if they are impt there would be other copies.Christ sake they are 50 years old imagine the dust.why pak media twists everything anti modi?

Ijaaz Jun 27, 2014 06:55pm

Digitize them first

Sheikh Khalid Jun 28, 2014 05:33am

Could the Indian Railways Ticket Sales, Rollings Stock Maintenance records be made available to people to read please?:) something about the infrastructure history is always ...err HISTORICAL:):) i would love to have access to those as well:)

george Jun 28, 2014 11:09pm

@Sheikh Khalid ''Any complaining attendee would have been well advised to read Modi

Sheikh Khalid Jun 29, 2014 11:33am

@george i study data , when i can, as one pass only phenomenon. and i love the shovel:)

Sheikh Khalid Jun 29, 2014 11:37am

@george it is disgusting to think of anyone as reactionary, i would hate if you started a revolution:):):):)