Through the remarkable initiative of establishing e-libraries all across Punjab, taken by the Pakistan Information Technology Board (PITB), thousands of individuals, primarily children, had access to 50,000 books, journals, lectures, seminars and the like—a facility thy have now been robbed of. 20 libraries have been shut down indefinitely and staff contracts terminated under the pretext of dangers posed by the pandemic. In a time where educational instruction is severely limited, curtailing more avenues for imparting knowledge is ill-advised.

Targeting areas like Attock, Sargodha, Bhakar, Toba Tek Singh, Muzafargarh, Okara and more, which are void of such services, e-libraries were a godsend for their citizens. With unaffordability being a major obstacle for obtaining knowledge, these e-libraries provided an avenue through which the gap between the rich and the poor could decrease. Around 60,000 students were given access to free of cost resources that were not available in their homes, schools or in public libraries. Now, they stand just as disadvantaged as they did before. Surely, projects that genuinely serve the interest of the public good should not be discarded so quickly and decidedly.

According to the government, the culprit behind these closures is the coronavirus and the transfer of operations to the Punjab Sports Board (PSB). However, that still does not explain why all the employees were removed from their post. Similarly, it is unclear how the PSB expected to look after these e-libraries without any expertise and an absent staff that could have provided assistance. There is also the question of why these libraries were transferred to a body looking at issues of sport in the province; e-libraries are directly related to education, not sports.

The rash decision to shut down all e-libraries, and their services for disadvantaged people living in faraway cities, is one that should be reconsidered. In a time where hardships continue to escalate, it is imperative to protect projects that promote public good and convenience.