[INDOLOGY] National Archives of India

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Wed Sep 25 08:46:00 UTC 2013

Dear INDOLOGY colleagues,

I've just written a cross letter to the National Archives in Delhi.  A real
David and Goliath situation.  Their library holds a manuscript that I wish
to read: it might be historically interesting, but I cannot be sure without
examining it.  Their prices mean I can't possibly afford a copy of it.  I
wrote and asked to purchase copies of the first ten and last ten folia.
After a gap of many weeks, the NI wrote back saying that I should send them
a bank draft.  My bank says a) the draft will be very expensive (more than
the cost of the MS copies), and b) they strongly advise against using bank
drafts and money orders because they are inherently insecure.  Indeed, I
had the experience a few years back of sending a bank order to the
University of Madras, and it got lost in the university publication

I have remonstrated with the National Archives, and suggested several
modern alternatives.  But it's hopeless.  They write letters like an
inhuman machine that can't actually have a conversation or serve the needs
of their users.

As part of my correspondence I said I would share my experience with my
peers.  I believe in "naming and shaming" institutions like the NI.  Hence
this message to INDOLOGY.

Best wishes,

The message below is the third or fourth in the exchange, and repeats many
of the points I had made earlier in the correspondence.
Dear Sirs,

You offer me the "convenience" of paying by bank order or draft, but as I
explained in my last communication, this is not convenient at all.  The
bank draft will cost more than copies of the manuscripts I need to read.
And bank drafts are an inherently insecure form of money transfer, as my
bank has informed me.  Further, the page-charges for manuscript copies are
also prohibitively expensive.  As I mentioned in my first communication,
your charges are so high that I cannot even afford to read a copy of one
whole manuscript.  Your policy in this matter is shamefully imitative of
many other avaricious institutions in India and internationally.  Many fine
institutions have moved into the modern age and shared their resources with
scholars in rational ways that promote international cooperation and the
growth of knowledge. For example, the Wellcome Trust, the University of
Pennsylvania, the Gujarat Ayurvedic University, and the Koba Tirth (the
largest manuscript library in the world), to name just some sample
institutions on the international stage.

I regret that as a National Archive and an internationally visible
representative Indian institution you are not able to provide a service
that meets your customers' needs.  I am not willing to pay in the expensive
and dangerous manner that you insist upon.  You have many excellent
alternative options available to you, and I wonder at your institutional
policy of remaining inflexible in this matter.

The policy you have adopted is damaging to scholarship on the history and
culture of India.  I have to inform you that I shall be sharing this
information with the international body of professional university scholars
dedicated to India.

I invite you to write to me again when your office procedures have been

Yours faithfully,

Prof. Dominik Wujastyk

Dr Dominik Wujastyk
Department of South Asia, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies<http://stb.univie.ac.at>
University of Vienna,
Spitalgasse 2-4, Courtyard 2, Entrance 2.1
1090 Vienna, Austria
Adjunct Professor,
Division of Health and Humanities,
St. John's Research Institute, <http://www.sjri.res.in/> Bangalore, India.

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