The modern concept of Records Management travelled from England to India during the British period, yet it will not be wrong to say that India had already known the problems and had tried to solve them much earlier than European countries. In ancient times before the art of writing was introduced in India, record of thought on events was kept by memorizing. The Vedas have been handed down from mouth to mouth not transcribed on papers or leaves. The system of recording ideas and incidents changed with the progress or civilization and records were kept by signs, drawings, pictures or engravings on a variety of materials. With the development of ancient scripts, writing materials were introduced for the purpose of record keeping and most of the early records of India are in the form inscriptions either on metals or on stones. The Jatakas which date back to pre-Buddist time recorded the ideas and thought of men.
Introduction of papers ushered in a revolution in the world of information. Nicolo Conti referes to the use of Samar-quandirag papers in Gujrat and Amir khusrau alludes the Shami or Syrian paper in Delhi. Amir Khusrau and Barni give a vivid description of book sellers of Delhi but it appears that the quality of paper was not sufficient to cope with the demand of the period and people had to exercise economy in the use of paper. Barni refers to an amusing instance in which the royal farmans were washed under Balban’s instruction in order to be able to re-utilize them for the purpose of writing.
The situation however changed during the Mughal rule and the Mughal administrators had to thumb through many papers in their official transactions. It is because of the enormous transactions on paper from one Department to another, that the Mughal administration has been described as the Kaghazi Raj or paper government. It is an irony of history that very few papers of this Kaghazi Raj have survived to enable us to have some idea of their original bulk.
The Archivists of the modern India are much concerned with the problem of bulk. The introduction of typewriter, duplicator, Xeroxing and other devices of multiplication of documents have resulted in an enormous production of records. The problem is further complicated by the variety of physical forms of modern records and the Archivists are therefore, naturally exercised over the quantum of records and their complexity.
It is now admitted by one and all that there can not be any administration without records and as such there can be no administration without any Records Management. The problems connected with what has now come to be termed as ‘records management’ and which have assumed enormous dimensions today had their beginnings in India during the British period. The existing arrangements in respect of these records whether pertain to Union or the States, are mostly the result of executive action of long standing usage and practice. Very rarely can they be attributed to any statutory obligations on the part of the public authorities concerned with them. It is no doubt true that the survival of the greater bulk of one entire category of public records, viz, judicial and revenue are due to be obligations imposed on them by the then supreme executive by Regulations XVIII and XXI of 1793, of “Preserving complete the records” respectively of the civil and criminal judicatures and of collectorates and other revenue authorities, and to the totality of public records in the country, and left entirely out of their scope, not only the archives of the highest tribunal in British India, but those of the supreme as well as the provincial council councils and all administrative bodies subordinate to them. More over, both the Regulations were repealed by Act XII of 1873 and since then the Indian Statute Book has practically ceased to have a law which places and obligation on any public authority in respect of its records.
Apparent exceptions are provided by several central central enactments which make it binding on certain public offices to keep and take care of documents lodged with them. But even these statutes touch only a small fraction of the mass of records categorized as public, and say next to nothing about the manner or method in which they are to be administered or disposed of the situation is kept practically unchanged by the Destruction of Records Act of 1917, which extends almost to all categories of public records. Besides empowering the High Courts and the Chief Revenue authorities in the States as well as the State Governments to dispose by destruction of any records deemed to be of ephemeral value lying in their respective possession or custody, the Act also invests the Central Government with power of disposal in respect of any records which are statutorily outside the jurisdiction of the authorities mentioned above. The statute does not affect in any way the power which, before its enactment both the Central and State Governments wilded and were exercising in respect of their own records by virtue of their executive authorities. The Act furnishes only a statutory basis of this power so far as it relates to the disposal of Central and State Government records but does not oblige the authorities concerned to discharge any functions in this respect.
So far as the public obligation in respect of public records is concerned the Indian Statute Books thus present us with a complete blank. How far the records themselves have fared in the circumstances, what lacuna exist in the prevailing arrangement in this respect and how they can be removed will be our duty to examine.
Records produced by the Government have been in the past small in number and were easily manageable, but with the increasing complexities of business handled by the Government in modern times the problem faced by the authorities concerned with them is indeed great. The ‘Record explosion’ that faces us at present is not of a lesser dimension than the ‘population explosion’ that confronts us today. This problem, i.e. the problem of records explosion or ‘bulk’ is baffling the minds of Record Keepers of the country. Preservation and maintenance of record requires; money and to ensure maximum utilization of our limited resources, we have to be very selective and keep these records in a manner so as to ensure both economy and efficiency. We have to think of records right from the time we contemplate the creation of a file and plan it in such a way that they serve the purpose for which they had been crated with the least possible delay. It involves planning the records creation process and systematizing the records disposition programme. The records which are produced need to be processed at a great speed. In case of conventional records, a consistent approach and effort is needed to weed out records of Ephemeral value so that records of vital importance are properly maintained and preserved for posterity.
The objective in managing public records is to make them serve the purpose for which they were originally created and to decide their proper disposition after they have served their immediate purposes unless they have enduring value other than the administrative one. This is possible if proper attention is paid to the handling of records from the time they are created till they are either destroyed or retired to an archival institution. All records have a life span which may be roughly divided into three stages. The first one is the stage of currency when the records are growing with the progress of the concerned activity or business. The second stage is that of semi-currency when they have ceased to grow after the finalization of the concerned transaction but are still used and consulted from time to time by the creating agency. The third stage is that of non-currency when they are no longer required for day-to-day reference and other administrative needs. This necessitates the proper categorization and segregation of current, semi-current and non-current records with a view to their proper disposition, as may be taken to determine the ultimate fate of the records. During these stages of life span of records the actions of the creating agency involve destruction of some records and retirement of remaining bulk to the departmental record room and ultimate centralization of some selected records in an archival institution for permanent preservation.
The problems connected with record management had been engaging the attention of the Government authorities for a long time and a major event of importance in the field of management of records was the emergence of the Indian Historical Records Commission in the year 1919.
The Commission is and advisory body so far as record management programme of the Central as well as State Government is concerned and a number of Resolutions regarding appraisal, weeding and also on archival legislation were passed in different sessions of the Commission. These Resolutions exerted considerable influence on the thinking of the government of India as well as on that of the State Government who took action within their respective limits. The publication of the committee of Archival legislation in 1960 is an important landmark as the committee examined in depth all aspects of management of records and their disposition and set froth in clear terms the need and scope of an archival law for the whole country.The Committee of Archival legislation, which enquired into the matter of proper maintenance and management of the records of both the Union and the State Governments and for grant of reasonable access to the records for purpose of research, made the following recommendations in the report of 1960 :-
While an amendment of the Constitution is not considered feasible at present, it is possible to have a common Archival Law which will be applicable to the Union and such of the States as would accord their consent under Article 252 (i) of the Constitution, the Government of India proposed to undertake, in consultation with the State Government suitable legislation in this behalf. Since such legislation would take time, it was not considered desirable to delay action on the substantive recommendations of the Committee on Archival legislation. Government of India have issued a Policy Resolution in respect of the Union Government vide Resolution No. F.-7 – 6/71-CAI (2), dated the 11th December, 1972 and have requested the State Government to take similar action in respect of their Archives.Accordingly, with a view to defining and regulating the responsibilities of the various Departments of Government/Heads of Departments and all offices of the State Government for proper custody, care and management of records in their possession, for selection and retirement of records of permanent value to the State Archives, Odisha, laying down the responsibilities of the State Archives in respect of the public records in its custody and all those with various Departments/Heads of Department and other offices and prescribing the limit and conditions governing public access to the records retired to the State Archives, Government of Odisha issued a similar Policy Resolution with the approval of Cabinet in 1978.
The Archival Policy Resolution of the Government of Odisha had the desired effect on the field of Records Management. In pursuance of the Resolution Odisha Records Manual (1964) governing the management and offices records in the possessions of various heads of Departments and offices sub-ordinate to them has been revised and the existing provision under Sub-Para. 177 (3) has been suitably substituted (See Appendix IV).
Similarly “Odisha Secretariat Instructions” which governs the management of records of various Departments of Government has also been amended. In Odisha the practice of having separate Manuals of office procedures, one for the Secretariat and the other for the Heads of Departments, is open to some objection, particularly because they may even prove contradictory to each other. The accepted practice all over the world is to follow a uniform system of record keeping and record management, applicable to all record creating agencies within the same Government, with the Archivist having and advisory and supervisory role. This adds to the administrative efficiency of the Government offices and in the long run, affects economy in the Government expenditure. However after the issue of the Archival Policy Resolution a uniform record management practice is likely to be followed in all Government offices and as a first step provisions, have been made in the ‘Odisha Secretariat Instructions’ and Odisha Records Manual pertaining to the subjects of appraisal, weeding and retirement of records. After the issue of the Archival Policy Resolution there has been significant change in the record-management programme of the State Government in respect of administration and elimination of records and their systematic transfer to Odisha State Archives for permanent preservation.
The immediate need of the day is to look into the aspect of preservation of records having enduring value, as the records housed in different departmental record rooms are in a very bad state of preservation. The buildings where the records are housed also are not suitable for the purpose. The condition under which they have been kept is grave enough to cause alarm as to the possibility of their future survival. Most of the record rooms are dump and none appears to have kept any record of variation of humidity and temperature. The practice of regular dusting is seldom followed. Although some record rooms have some kind of fire-fighting arrangements, the rest have scarcely provided any safeguards against fire-hazards. As regards insectal or fungal attacks, none of the record rooms provide any measures whatever for wording them off. The records have not been kept in protective covers and in most of the record rooms, bundles have been made by just tying groups of files with strings. None of the record rooms have practically any arrangement for getting repaired their brittle records. None have any trained staff to look after the records, nor a full-time qualified custodian of a responsible status to administer them.
May things will have to be done if this unhappy state of affairs in to be eliminated, but the immediate requirement of these long neglected departmental accommodations is retirement to a satisfactory repository which would afford them maximum protection.
The existing departmental accommodations should be re-organized. The following are the basic requirements which are essential for the health of the semi current records while non-current records having enduring values should be retired to the State Archives for permanent preservation :-
1.A separate records room having stack area is a vital necessity. The records room should as far as possible, be located either on the ground floor of the administrative building or in its basement. If the windows open into the space outside or in the courtyards in the interior, they should be fitted with metal grills and wire mesh nets. To avoid splashing of rain water in the room, rain shades should be provided at all their openings. For reasons of safety of records and security, it is advisable to permit limited entry into such rooms. The floor of a Records room should be such as to permit easy movement of records carrying trolleys etc. Where accommodation and design so permits, the stack area should be separated from the record reference reception portion, and the administrative wing of the building.
2.While selecting the location of the Records room, it may be ensured that no water pipes or drains pass near, above, or under the Records Room building. Further, in order to prevent any inflow of water into the stack due to blockage of drains or accidental damage to water pipes in the building, its floor level should be raised a few centimeters above the general level of the other floors of the building. To allow free movement of trolleys, ramps should be provided near the entrance.
3.Storage of records in an air-conditioned atmosphere is conducive to its longevity. Air-conditioning is, therefore essential for Records Rooms. In existing building, which do not have central ari-conditioner, use of package type air-conditioner or window type air-conditioner should be provided. For effective air-conditioning, ventilation should be so planned as to permit minimum leakage of the conditioned atmosphere. While calculating conditioning load, bulk of shelving equipment, archival material, the number of persons sitting in the Record Room, the bulk of records moving in and out and the lighting wattage should be taken into account. Humidity and temperature in conditioned Records Room should be measured regularly. The ambient conditions for storage of records are (i) temp. 29°C-25°C and (ii) relative humidity 45 percent. In order to maintain proper humidity in the conditioned area, it is necessary that permeation of dampness through the walls or floors does not take place. The floor should be laid water proof and the walls should be given water proof oil paint coating.
4.While considering air-conditioning of Record Room, it may be taken into account that the air-conditioning plant has to be planned for clockwise air-conditioning all the year round. Such running of plant will often lead to occasional service break down, and provision for stand by plant may have to be made. Otherwise such break downs are likely to create conditions which lead to accelerated damage to records.
5.Keeping in view economy in resources, in many cases it may not be possible to get record room air-conditioned. In such a case, steps should be taken to provide circulation of air in the storage room by providing Air circulator fans and exhaust fans to counteract the effect of high humidity and prevent formation of pockets of stagnant air in the storage room. Use of chemicals like silicagel or anhydrous calcium chloride in enameled or glazed earthen pots help to reduce humidity in the room. Mechanical de-humiditiers are now available and during rains their use will help to check the influence of excessive humid climate.
6.Temperature in Record Room can be kept within reasonable range by choosing such rooms which are in the interior or have a varanda around them. During summer, if the record room is fitted with air circulators, electric fans and exhaust fans for proper circulation of airs, high temperature can be brought down by installation of Room Coolers in windows, Care should be taken to see that direct sun light does not fall on the records. This can be achieved by fitting either ground glass panes or heat resistance glass panes on the windows and by providing curtains.
7.Shelving in the Records Room should be functional, durable, easy to clean, simple in design. It should provide maximum safety from fire, dust, etc. and other maximum facility and convenience for servicing. Shelves should be fixed away from the walls and at equal distance throughout the storage area. Distance between successive shelve rows may very 0.71 metre to 1 metre.
8.Collections in the Records Room defer in bulk, size and shape and commonly consist of bound volumes, loose sheets, files, manuscripts, maps, charts, plans and drawings, etc. Shelving arrangement needed for specific material need designing according to the nature, shape and bulk of the materials. While designing these nor the materials kept on them touch either the walls, ceiling or the floor. Distance from wall, ceiling and the floor should be at least six inches.
9.The Records should be loosely packed in the shelves to enable free circulation of air and prevent formation of pockets of high humidity. Unbound records may either be tied between two pieces of 5 ply board or kept in carton boxes for safety.
10.For safeguarding the records against damage due to insect infestation, the Record rooms should be sprayed with insecticidal solutions beneath the shelves, behind the cabinets and also in corners, etc. All cracks on the floor and walls should be filled up to prevent the growth of pests. However only those chemicals should be sprayed whose effect on the durability and permanency of paper and other record components has been properly studied. In a non-conditioned area, use of preservatives like Naphthalene in the forms of bricks kept on shelves helps to keep the records safe from insects.
11.In spite of dust proof building and air-conditioning, dust does find its way to the stored materials. Regular dusting operation in the stored area with the help of vaccum cleaner is therefore desirable to remove dust from the stored materials. The Record room staffs should be kept absolutely clean. Staff engaged in dusting should be provided with dust respirators. A cloth bag with surgical lining which can be changed occasionally works as a satisfactory respirator.
Good lighting with either natural or artificial light is necessary for every Records Rooms. Modern lighting practice is to provide defused light of varying intensity for different rooms. Lighting can be improved by using paints that reflect light.
13.To protect against any accidental fire all electric wiring should be through conduit pipe and main control switches of lights, etc., installed in the storage area should be located outside the records room. As Records room should be fitted with fire dictation alarm system to detect any fire in the storage area. Use of nacked light, heaters and smoking in the room should be prohibited. A preventive measure against accidental fire all lights and fire circuits should be switched off after office hour. For combating fire, adequate equipments of Carbon-dioxide type should be provided at suitable places in the building.
To conclude proper arrangement of records under hygienic condition, combined with staff vigilance alone facilitate maintenance of records.