BARM Society and it’s mission, by Florus Geraedts
March 7, 2009, 7:08 pm
Filed under: Foundation | Tags: ,


BARM Society and its mission: How to start solving archival Information Problems in Bangladesh, 6 March 2009-03-05

Ladies and gentlemen, The present Director of the National Archives (in office since april 2007), whom I have the honor to call my friend actually gave me the motto for the BARM work in Bangladesh:
On 24 May 2007 he told me: “I read your documents on Bangladesh Archives and Records Management: it is all very interesting and relevant. But here is my first advise: you should do more in order to prevent a failure”. In Latifur’s typical words: don’t let BARM become part of the World and All Time’s Encyclopedia of Failures.

During the last 14 years I visited Bangladesh for archival development project BARM and I could see the hope giving efforts of the National Archives to collect and preserve archives, spread knowledge on archives and history by organising exhibitions, inspection visits to record creating Govenment institutions and bringing out a Newsletter on Archives and National Library. However, at the same time a process of decay was going on: during those years since 1995, experienced staff went on retirement and was not replaced on the necessary level of professional knowledge. More aspects show the worse condition of National Archives: A crucial process: digitizing Archives by scanning of the Archives and presenting these on Internet has been stopped almost one year ago. Thus we are in a backlog now and lost a most valuable contact with the SDNB project on makng New Website for National Archives of dr Asad Uzzaman and mr Touhid Uzzaman in BIDS. Accessioning of newly acquired archives still hampers. Inspection of the newly created government records hardly takes place and advising and training of record keepers and officers in charge of records all over Bangladesh are almost non existent.
In the present process of digitizing the Information Management, this National Archives plays no role at all. There is no cooperation with the Information Science and Library Departments of our Universities. All cooperation with education institutes of IT professionals is absent. I found out that any awareness about Archives in IT sector is lacking. National Archives and Archival World even has no CONTACT with the Grameen Initiative of Collecting Historical Documents on 1971 Liberation War and the 500 Grameen Computer Community Learning Centers as I heard on 19 february in Kulna University. There is no cooperation with the Bangladesh Computer Council though National Archives should be involved in digitizing information management. In Malaysia for example their National Archives is serving the nation and the whole society by full swing involvement in creating an electronic Goverment Service to the Citizens. The Motto of Malaysian National Archives is: Sharing Information will enrich each and everyone, Keeping secret and unused of Information, Archives and Records will hamper the spreading and extension of Knowledge. That brings hampering of progress and ongoing lawlessness and poverty in our economy and society. Transparency and accountability are absent everywhere.
But there are signs of hope: In Rajshahi University, Prof Anwar Hossein is, with his staff, doing his utmost to build up transparency and accountability by creating and improving the Examination Controller’s administration. This initiative might invite other Universities, state and NonGovernment, and colleges and highschools to do the same as well: build up of reliable educational archives. The 29 december elections for Parliament happened to be the most free and well prepared elections of 37 years Bangladesh History. This had its roots too in application of Good Information and Records Management. The Implementation of ID card and Voters List, based on Birth Registration and serious data collection in 2007 and 2008 shows GROWING Awareness about how to build up good Archives and Records Management in Government and Society.
The Government of Bangladesh seriously will strive at a better future by announcing the Bangladesh 2021 Vision. The imposing of the Right To Information Act (october 2008) will be a mighty leap forward: it will force Government to become transparent, democratic and effective. This Right To Information Act will make the inhabitants of what was once a Mugul Empire, then British Colonial Raj and then a colony of Jinnah’s Pakistan to real, self conscious CITIZENS of a free and prosperous Bangladesh. Because with this Right to Information Act, Information Management and Digitizing are one and undivisable action. Right To Information for all citizens absolutely needs proper Archives and Records Management in all levels and quarters of Government. For reaching access to the Government Archives and Records, proper Records management is absolutely needed. For this aim the National Archives is the linch pin, a crucial actor. Is the National Archives of Bangladesh ready to play this role? Not at all. The National Archives now is in total agony: a suffocating, if not dying Digitizing Records Project. National Achives with a decreasing staff, without perspective of professional training, without proper Internet connected equipment can NEVER meet the needs of Bangladesh Government, Economy and Society for coping with the challenges of the electronic Information World. It can play no role in scientific development.
BARM Society should help the National Archives and all quarters of the GOB to execute the Archives Ordinance and the Right To Information Act as well. Land administration, Civil Registration, Judiciary, Regional and Local Government Record Keeping should become spearheads of innovative Archives and Records Management. Pilots must be developed ASAP and this will be part of the Roadmap to Bangladesh 2021, a new chapter in Bangladesh History.
BARM Society wants to develop all activities as presented by Lt Colonel Lutful Haq, dr Sharifuddin Ahmed, dr Mahbubur Rahman and others and a complete schedule of tangible steps forward will be published soon. It is my sincere hope and request to you to help us: the right honorable Government Representatives are kindly urged to take steps for strengthening the National Archives and archival care through the whole nation. All the members of the audience are requested to become member of the BARM Society and to develop ideas for archives rescuing and archival information management in all corners of Bangladesh.
Main target now should be the spreading of the feeling of urgency to rescue archives
asking local officials in their offices about their records, how they accession and preserve these archives & records, how old their eldest records are. This is inspection work which the NAB has to do according to their assignment. BARM Society can do this as relevant activity. These visits create scope for proving local officials the relevance of record management, teach them how to manage archives and records. For example: the Urgency Course on record keeping in the National Archives of 18 and 19 March will show the door to solutions of the Bangladshi Archives Problems. The same way, Heritage Archives in Kazla Gate here in Rajshahi will set an example how to solve the archival problems. Local Archives rescuing work in Dinajpur, Narayanganj and the Tea Board Archives will show us the way how all of us can work locally. The way, how ICDDR,B is building their archival collections o research documentary and pictures is absolutely setting standards for all of us.
During each visit we should ask the present officers how they keep their records? Where they preserve their non current records? What problems they are confronted with? Discuss with them, how you, of the BARM Society could help them to find ways of solving the archival problems. Hand out and explain to the officers or maire or Council members the Information Leaflet (with website addresses and mobile numbers) about BARM Society and BARM activities. Furthermore: brochure on NAB (what can NAB mean for your paurashava on helping to preserve your local archives?), National Archives ordinance 1983, Right To Information Ordinance 2008 and brochure on private archives, for example Heritage Archives, Tea Board Archives, ICDDR,B Archives, ZIA Heart Foundation Archives as example.This is extremely important because the local officers are JUST interested in PRACTICAL information on PRACTICAL solutions, not in theories and academic disputes.
Activities started already by Mr Lutful Haq, mrs Salma Islam and mr Ali Akbar for example. Last week I visited local record rooms in Ioari Union Parishad (Bhobanipur Bonpara, Distr. Natore), Birampur and Fulbari Paurashava (distr. Dinajpur).
Every 3 months a meeting of BARM Executive Committee (33 persons appointed in the Launching Meeting 24 february in National Museum, Dhaka) is needed to exchange experiences with our activities and to solve problems. Keep these meetings INFORMAL and PRACTICAL: we do not execute our BARM task by seminars and discussions but first of all by practical work and tangible results. The meetings should first of all focuss on collecting data and reports on archival visits and rescuing activities. These reports and data (in the NAB files: archival inspection reports! See for example the Inspection reports of 1978-1983) must become available by website / blog. Based on the Right To Information Ordinance 2008, the Government of Bangladesh is stimulating us to do so.

In between these meetings of the Executive Commitee, the Steering Committee should meet more frequently to put information about our visits, courses, rescuing of archives etc. on Blog or website. And to take care of our list of members and sympathizers and well wishers, in Bangladesh. And our international allies, like ICA, SWARBICA and keep the This is extremely important in order to keep all of us well informed and MOTIVATED to CONTINUE our BARM work.

We will have to visit as much as local record rooms as possible, short training program on archives & record keeping for DC’s, Paurashava maires, UP chairmen, magistrates in judiciary organisation. This way they will get acquainted with National Archives and BARM Society and National Archives and BARM Society will get a much better picture of Archives Information Problems and solutions in Bangladesh. By our work (BARM Society and National Archives) the ministers and secretaries of Culture, Home affairs and Information will become much more informed and aware of the REAL problems and solutions. In this way, these political authorities can contribute and facilitate to the Road map and the BangladeshVision 2021.

The work of NAB and BARM Society will be most challenging and satisfactory if we are ready to do it and to continue despite many disappointments and frustrations. But if we are able to persist and work with devotion, we can succeed. BARM can help to create a more honest, prosperous and civilized Bangladesh by stimulating Information Management for Good Governance and Professional Historiography.


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