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Archives dept roped in to restore burnt, wet files

Over 9,000 pages from 110 files belonging to the Revenue and Forest Department, which were burnt in the Mantralaya fire, are being dried out in the seminar hall of Worli Dairy since last week.


Left out to dry: The State Archive Department fumigates the wet papers to prevent fungal growth, after which they are left to dry at the Worli Dairy. Pic/Sunil Tiwari

This is being done with an attempt to retrieve and collect maximum clues about the files that were either charred during the fire or drenched during the rescue operations. To enable recovery of the damaged files, the Revenue Department has already sought assistance from the Director of the Department of Archives.

Suprabha Agarwal, director, Department of Archives, said, “We are assisting the Revenue and Forest Department to retrieve and preserve whatever papers they could collect from the fire. The papers will be fumigated and accordingly a decision on whether they should be scanned, microfilmed or digitised will be duly taken. Although, we have a staff crunch, we will give priority to this work.”

The Urban Development and Revenue and Forest offices on the fourth and fifth floors of Mantralaya were among those that were badly damaged in the fire that broke out on the afternoon of June 21.

After confirming the shifting of files to Worli Dairy, Swadhin Kshatriya, principal secretary, revenue and forests, said, “A team of officials have been assigned the task to sort out papers from the debris and preserve them as per the guidance of Department of Archives.”

“The state government has already appealed to the people across the state to approach local government officials with relevant files related to their cases before the revenue and forest department, or submit a copy of any written communication to either the collector or divisional collectors, which would in turn help us to retrieve and reconstruct files,” said Kshatriya. Kshatriya further added, “We are hopeful of retrieving many papers and files belonging to Revenue and Forest Department through the Mantralaya’s in-house Document Journey Management System (DJMS), and will surely succeed in our mission.”

Revenue Department officials deployed at Worli Dairy stated that most of the documents shifted here were half burnt while the remaining were submerged in water. “As per the instructions received from the State Archives Department, each retrieved file paper was placed on a blotting paper (to soak the water completely), and then relevant files were prepared. We have made 110 files so far and have labelled and numbered them for our records,” said Rajendra Bengle, deputy secretary at the Revenue department.

Restoration process
“We will send 25 files at a time for fumigation, and it usually takes five to six working days. Fumigation is done to prevent fungal growth on the papers, which were wet. Also if any chemical preservation is required, the decision would be accordingly taken at a later stage,” said a officials from State Archives.

Meanwhile, Agarwal added, “We have 15 scanners and we can easily scan around 3,000 pages daily. The Urban Development (UD) department has approached us with a similar request.”  

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