GUWAHATI, Nov 14 - The Publishers and Book Sellers Guild of Kolkata today appealed to the members and the book sellers from Delhi and others parts of the country to desist from participating in the State government-aided Guwahati Book Fair, organised by the Publication Board Assam, as a mark of protest against the government’s decision to take out the textbook printing work from the hands of indigenous publishers of Assam.From the dais of the valedictory function of the 19th North East Book Fair, Tridib Kr Chatterjee, general secretary of the Guild, expressed solidarity with the All Assam Publishers and Booksellers Association’s decision to boycott the Guwahati Book Fair, scheduled in December.
The North East Book Fair that started on November 3 had a successful stint this year with more than 2.5 lakh people visiting the fair and a sale record of nearly Rs 2.75 crore. Apart from successful interactive sessions with eminent actor Victor Banerjee, bestselling authors like Navanil Chakravarty and Durjoy Dutta, Burmese journalist and author Aung Zaw, the fair also had a large-scale active participation of the younger generation.
In the concluding ceremony today, the issue of the government’s decision to give free textbooks to students up to degree level was once again raised with stress on its impact on the 150-year-old publishing industry of Assam. In his speech, president of the Association, Ajit Kumar Barman, said that the publishers had advised the government to start a comprehensive scholarship for the students from poor financial background, compared to a total free distribution of the textbooks, which would cause more harm than benefit.
Jania MLA Abdul Khaleque said that instead of patronising the publishing industry in Assam, the State government had adopted an attitude inimical towards the publishers. Recounting the role of publishers in promoting book-reading habit, and thereby culture and literature, Khaleque said that he would raise the issue in the coming State Legislative Assembly session in December.
“I won’t blame the current government totally for this fiasco, but, as per our experience, we can safely assert that quality of education, rather than freebies, attract the students. Even the poorest of the poor, in the rural pockets, want to send their wards to private schools, as they believe that private schools offer better quality education,” he added.
Eminent educationist Dayananda Pathak also said that governance must be the priority of a government, and for the sake of professional excellence, book publishing should be left for the experts.
A number of other eminent persons, including journalist Adip Phukan and SN Goswami, were present in the programme.