Eastern Regional Centre, Kolkata

  

A little known fact about Kolkata is that when in 1690 Job Charnock acquired the fishing villages of Sutanuti on the Hughli and also Govindpur and Kalikatta in 1698, he laid the foundations of the second city of the British Empire. He bought the villages from the landlords for a paltry sum of Rs. 1300.
   

Background
The Eastern Regional Centre (ERC) of the ICSSR has been located from its inception in 1974 in the offices of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. The ERC has been administered by the Director of the CSSS who is the Honorary Director of the ERC, and by the Registrar of the CSSS who is the Joint Director of the ERC. Both positions are honorary and carry no remuneration. All the academic, administrative and accounts functions of the ERC have been provided by the CSSS. Its activities have been generally confined to three areas: (1) Making available study grants to scholars who need to come to Kolkata for short periods for their research. (2) maintain collections of books and periodicals in the social sciences located in the library of CSSS and prepare bibliography in regional languages. & (3) maintain a guest house for visiting scholars.

In March 2000, the CSSS offices and library shifted to its new campus at Baishnabghata, Patuli. Since that time the ERC offices and library holdings have also been shifted to the new campus.
 
The proposed policies for the regional centres of the Indian Council of Social Science Research have been articulated from time to time in several meetings of the Regional Centres. It had been proposed that their programmes/ activities should be oriented more to the promotion of social science in the region so that the centres may become academic in orientation. A major suggestion forwarded from time to time was mainly for decentralisation of activities of the ICSSR through the regional centres. However, due to various constraints such ideas have not met with desired success.
 
The Eastern Regional Centre, unlike other regional centres which are attached to the respective universities in the cities, is attached to another research centre, i.e. Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata (CSSS). While all other regional centres have their own office buildings, library space and guest houses, the Eastern Regional Centre has been a co-sufferer with the CSSS for lack of space and funds. The CSSS itself was located till recently in a house built for domestic purposes and with little scope for expansion of space. The activities of the ERC had to be conducted in a much smaller space within the same cramped building during all these years.
 
Although, decentralisation and expansion of academic activities had been discussed from time to time, the policy of funding has not favoured any expansion. The ERC receives a grant every year which can barely meet the establishment cost, rent for the hired flats (guest house) and a very nominal amount of study grant etc. Hence apart from the space constraint, limited financial resource has prevented any activities beyond those mentioned below. A summary of such activities over the years since the inception of the ERC is given below:

Study Grant
Under the Study Grant scheme of the ICSSR, doctoral students are sanctioned return railway fare from their place of research to come to Kolkata for consulting material in libraries, state archives etc., relevant to their doctoral work. Such scholars come from all over India and grants are sanctioned after the respective applications are vetted by senior scholars about the suitability and purpose of the visit ranging from seven days to a maximum of six weeks. This has been a rather popular and successful scheme and has been utilised by over 500 scholars so far.

Financial assistance for organising Seminars, Conferences, Workshops in the Region
As per the policy of the ICSSR and as recommended by the Advisory Committee of the ERC, financial assistance has been provided to various social scientists, institutes, academic organisations and individual scholars for organising conferences, seminars, workshops etc., and also for pursuing individual research activities. It may be relevant to mention that during the last two decades, the total amount available for such funding for conferences, etc. has been very meagre.
The ERC has also organised several conferences, seminars and workshops on its own in which participants from Indian universities and research institutions and also scholars from abroad joined. 

Visitors from Abroad
On invitation from ICSSR, New Delhi there had been many eminent social scientists who visited India in connection with their research, as members of delegations etc. Such scholars from all over the world visited ERC for whom arrangements for hospitality, seminars and visits to other institutions were organised.

Bibliographical Projects
The ERC had undertaken several bibliographical projects on its own. One of the significant projects had been the Mahatma Gandhi Bibliography (Bengali Facsicule). While it was planned that the ERC should begin projects on preparation of union catalogue of research material in social sciences in languages like Assamese, Bengali, Nepali and Oriya, it had not been possible to begin all the projects except the one in Bengali. The first phase of compilation of bibliography of social science literature in Bengali has almost been completed. The work on ICSSR-IDPAD project for compilation of regional union catalogues of social science research in Calcutta (RUCSSSC) has also been completed.

Library
As originally planned the regional libraries were to act as a data bank among their other activities. The present holdings are given below:
(i)Books - more than 2500; (ii) Journals subscribed 12 nos.; (iii) Newspapers subscribed - 10 nos; (iv) 97 Bound volumes of back nos.; viz. American Economic Review, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, American Journal of Sociology, Indian Economic Review, Journal of Sociological Review etc.; 
(v) Micro Films: Indian Census: 1872-1951.

Reprographic Unit
Since 1976, the ERC had been providing reprographic services to the users of its library. This had been a very useful service provided to the scholars visiting both the CSSS and the ERC libraries and the volume of Xerox copies provided had been on an average of 1,00,000 copies per annum.

Guest House
From 1974 to 2000, the ERC maintained a small guest house in two rented flats opposite the CSSS building at Lake Terrace, Kolkata. Only six rooms were available to visiting scholars in this guest house and the facilities were not satisfactory. Nevertheless, the guest house enjoyed a very high rate of occupancy and scholars from all over India as well as Bangladesh and few other countries availed of the ERC guest house. After the CSSS shifted to the new campus, one floor of the building at 10 Lake Terrace has been now converted into the ERC guest house for which the ERC pays a modest rent to the CSSS. During the last two decades occupancy for the limited space available in guest house facilities have been used by more than 4,000 scholars.
Development Plan for the 10th Plan Period

The Eastern Regional Centre’s plan for the next plan period consists of the following:

1. Advisory Committee
 

To be constituted after the Review committee Report.

2. Dissemination
 

The activities of the ERC, including its programmes of providing travel grants to scholars wanting to do research in libraries and institutions in the Eastern region and of subsidising workshops and conferences, should be disseminated more effectively in the colleges and universities of the region. A periodic newsletter carrying news and announcements of ERC programmes will be circulated to all universities and research institutions in the region.

3. Efficient Conduct of Existing Programmes

As mentioned above, there are some ongoing programmes of the ERC such as travel grants, grants for holding conferences and workshops, grants towards publication of journals etc. which will continue. There have been limited response for these grants in recent years. It is proposed that by greater publicity, the number of applications could be improved.

4. Annual Social Science Workshop
 
It is proposed that there should be an Annual Social Science workshop on a specific theme (to be decided each year). This will be for 15-20 young researchers from the Eastern region, either fresh Ph.D.s or those in advanced stages of Ph.D. research or college/university teachers below the age of 35. They will be selected by open advertisement on the basis of proposals. They will meet in a workshop for 5-6 days where there will be a structured programme of lecture/discussions by senior faculty members and presentation of research papers by the selected participants. The younger scholars will thus get a chance to present their research and have it discussed by senior social scientists.

5. Collaboration with North-Eastern Region
 

There is considerable scope for fruitful collaboration in social science research between scholars of the Eastern and the North-Eastern regions. There may be joint workshops and exchange of visits by scholars from the two regions. The ERC would like to actively collaborate with the NERC in this matter.

6. Miscellaneous
  
The ERC had been subscribing to a limited number of journals and newspapers in Bengali. Since establishment of the Centre the ERC undertook bibliographical projects as mentioned earlier in this note. It also supported a limited number of conferences/workshops in the region. Guidance and consultancy to scholars had been through the faculty members of the CSSS as ERC did not have any member of the academic staff. There had been no scope of development of infrastructure in terms of buildings as the ERC was located “within” the office premises of the CSSS and thus the library facilities were merged with that of the CSSS and development of infrastructure in terms of equipment was minimal.
However, if the policies for the regional centres are changed to undertake other academic activities as well, fund and space permitting, a comprehensive development plan can be prepared.