INA Memorial in desperate need of a makeover

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By Chitra Ahanthem
IMPHAL, Jan 25: The INA memorial at Moirang is a sad picture today. The walls of the building are chipped off in many parts while there is hardly any staff around to tell visitors about the memorial. Visitors to the memorial should consider themselves lucky though: till 2010, there were security barracks inside the complex, all in the name of security. The Assam Riffles, the CRPF, the BSF, name any central paramilitary force and they would have been posted inside the complex at any given point of time.

This year, when the nation paid homage to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary on January 23, the INA memorial function to mark the day was low key because of the forthcoming assembly elections in the state. The annual fare is for the local area MLA to unfurl the Tri-colour and give a speech. On a visit to the INA  memorial a mere 4 days before the Netaji birth anniversary, a staff employed on a contract basis by the Department of Art and Culture at the Memorial said he was not aware of what sort of preparations were being made to observe Netaji’s birth anniversary. Every year, the INA has set number of functions apart from the birth anniversary: the National Tri-colour Flag-Hoisting Day on 14 April and the Provisional Government of Free India (Azad Hind) Day on 21 October).

It is easy to make out the visible signs of decay and make out that the historical legacy is crumbling down because enough attention has not been given to its upkeep. A walk around the complex of the INA memorial is all too short: the sight of the moat by the side of the memorial linking to the Moirang river is not too good. There is no water in the moat, which is filled by mounds of water plants and waste materials. The outer walls of the building structures are cracked and falling apart, while the upper portion of the Netaji library leaks during rainy spells. One can imagine what would happen to the life size painting of Netaji  (drawn in 1969) that occupies the library and reading room if the leak isn’t taken care of. The coat of dust on the reading tables and the mad scrambles for the keys to the library racks and shelves tell their story of neglect.

The INA war museum is housed in dark rooms. The sign- board is peeling off. Ask a staff about how many tourists visited the museum in 2011 and he will tell you that their register is under lock and key. He will also tell you that the staff in charge of the register has not come in for the day. A visitor can buy souvenirs copies that chronicle the history of the INA memorial. There is another booklet on the freedom fighters who fought in the INA. You would have to pay Rs 50 each (an amount that is not printed on the booklets) and yet you would not get a receipt acknowledgment.

Promila, librarian at the Netaji Library says, “There is definitely a lack of promotion about this historical site. We had a lot of visitors before the para-military forces were stationed here but after they came in, the footfall of visitors decreased. The para-military forces were taken away in 2010 and the complex is now guarded by Manipur Police but I don’t think too many people know that.”

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