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Record Management

The record management programme envisages a comprehensive programme relating to the creation and preservation of records during their current and semicurrent stages. It includes the devising of ways and means by which, the creation of records is economized to the maximum extent. The programme expects all the record creation agencies to arrange a time-bound programme for the recording of files, preparation of indices, compilation of retention schedules with a view to retiring of files to the archives after they have been duly appraised and less important files separated from them.

The importance of this programme came to be realized mostly after the Second World War, because during the War, the output of records increased manifold and also because the new types of records such as microfilms, xerographic records, etc., came into existence. It was for this reason that for the first time it was realized that the archivist, to whose custody the records have to be retired ultimately, should play an important role in the management of records during their current and semi-current stages.

The best example for this realization can be given from the recommendations of the famous Hoover Commission Report in the USA in the year 1948. This Commission recommended that the National Archives Washington, which was looking after the Federal records of the USA, should have a regular authority in record management. As a result of this recommendation the National Archives in the USA was redesignated as National Archives and Records Service.
In Great Britain also, the importance of records management Programme was highlighted in the Grigg Committee Report (1954). This Committee gave top priority to the orderly disposal of records after due appraisal by all the common agencies.

The preparation of this disposal schedules by all by the creating agencies is to be made obligatory.
In India the record management programme is initiated as a result of the recommendation made by the Committee on Archival Legislation which was appointed by the Government of India in 1959 under the chairmanship of Dr. Tara Chand.

This Committee was asked to report on a number of problems concerning the preservation and utilization of records. The Tara Chand Committee pointed out that out of nearly 500 records creating agencies of the Government of India, none have a well-established system of retirement of records or appraisal. In India, the position was critical in the absence of any Act or Legislation for the disposal of records. The Committee accordingly made a number of useful recommendations for initiating the record management programmes, both by the Union Government and the State Governments. According to the Committee this programme should be enforced on a legal basis to an archival legislation both at the Central and State Governmental agencies.

The National Archives of India has set up a separate division to look after the record management programme of the union-ministers and their offices. The India Historical Records Commission in its various resolutions has recommended State Governments to also take up a similar programme in consultation with their respective State Archives Departments.

In order to facilitate the work of the National Archives and State Archives the IHRC has recommended that the Heads of these Archives be given the power of inspect the records of the Central and State Departments respectively. In 1969, the Administrative Reforms Department of the Government of India set up a Committee of officers to go into the entire programme of creation of files, their recording, preparation of indices and their appraisal. by The National Archives of India was closely associated with this Committee. The Committee has laid great emphasis on the fact that the creation, recording and appraisal of records in the various Departments and Ministries should be looked after by responsible officers. This Committee has also endorsed the views of the Tara Chand Committee regarding the appointment of Departmental Record Officers. It has also recommended that proper retention schedules for the files should be drawn up by Ministries and Departments in consultation with the National Archives.

The entire purpose of the record management programme is to control the creation of records at all levels with a view to economizing in terms of shelves-space and public expenditure on the preservation of records. According to the Guide prepared by the public Record Office, London for the appraisal of records, the attempt should be to reduce 100 miles of shelves-space to just one mile of shelves-space for the permanent records. This will give an idea about the importance of a record management programme in terms of the nation’s economy.

We should have a certain standard of appraisal to describe what to retain. By appraisal of records, we mean the periodical reviewing of records with a view to determining their retention periods both from the point of view of the administration and their historical utility at a later stage. Appraising records is one of the most difficult as well as one of the most responsible jobs. It has been found by experience that the files or other records are not created strictly in accordance with the given rules and instructions. Also experience shows that they are not kept properly arranged with the result that the appraisal is confronted with a host of problems not directly related to his job.

It has also been found that there are certain categories of records which cannot be easily classified by the creating agencies. These records particularly create problems at the time of their appraisal. Another difficulty experienced by the appraiser is the transfer of certain branches in a Department or a Ministry from one administrative set-up to another or occasional organization of the functions and nomenclatures of the various Ministries or Departments.

The archivist comes into the picture at the stage when the records have to be appraised finally before their retirement to the archival repository. His only aim is to consider the utility of those records from the historical point or administration of view, which obviously means that those records should be preserved permanently. But the historical criteria is most difficult to decide. Sometimes it is suggested that the archivist who is to be associated with the appraisal of records must be familiar with historical methodology.

He is expected to have the experience of using the records as source-materials. But the most important thing which an archivist is required to possess which can qualify him for a job of appraisal is a very wide range of experience about the legal basis for which records exist; their evidential value to the administrators at all times to come, as well as the variety of its uses to which these records are to be put in future, including their use by researchers.

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