Thursday July 18, 2019
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Book Fair: Romancing the Mob!

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By Akash Shukla

Book fair is a paradise for avid readers; for others it could be several different things. Lucknow is a funny town. It celebrates contradictions instead of diversity. This City of Nawabs shuts its eyes on LANDMARK and revels annually on a thematic Book Fair. What an irony! We walk too much. We buy too less. The last day of book fair locked horns with Gujrati Garba in the opposite lawns and down went public’s pseudo love for books as if everyone was waiting for a desperate counterpart. Hypocrites as we are, a mere digression lures us away from the titles. The tracing book lovers sulked in the corners while music enveloped all and sundry. If this wasn’t domineering enough of a trend over the other, the disco lights and a crystal ball coupled with exclusive tickets left no stones unturned to overcast the fledgling reading cult.

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While Shaan-e-Awadh was grappling with ever-changing curiosities of the multitude, a guy tottered next to a girl merely in care and barely for books. When she nosedived in books, he realized he was wading through her sinkable eyes. Even inanimate books blew saxophones and shabby roughnecks appeared minstrels. This voodoo on a guy is like an unadvertised sale. It’s there but no one would ever know; even the doll-face would stay clueless. Magically meandering and charmingly smitten, the guy says, “May I hold your bag please?” Dazed and amazed, she struggled with a ‘no’ but all that spurted was a confused smile. Dimwit of a guy confused the gesture, held the cross-bag as if he held her. Stupidly they smiled for different reasons and got lost in the books; interestingly it ensued a role play; she turned reader and he turned pretender. Books were her love while she was his.

The author had a Sidney Sheldon in his hand. He saw this. Felt it. Tossed the murky emotional Sheldon ending for an ephemeral romance and the author’s title was lost among many others for a reason even unknown to him. Fleeting joy at its best, the lover boy switched glances between her and the ticking clock. His watch kept telling him that he had to teach. He had to leave. With barely five minutes at hand, the romance continued to melt from his face. The seemingly-timeless book fair stood still. Frozen in time, he looked while she did not; Diving deep into her face, time had come to retrace. Pining for the stay, he just could not. The never-to-be couple had parted. The author saw an unpublished romance; the ignorant titles at the book fair missed it all.

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Imposition of 10% Custom Duty on Book Import Impact Nepal’s Booksellers, Students

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. "Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports"

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nepal, duty on books
With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students. Wikimedia Commons

Even as Indian publishers are grappling with a budget proposal of 5 per cent customs duty on imported books, in close neighbour Nepal, a 10 per cent duty on books has left publishers and booksellers reeling, with students hit badly as Kathmandu imports over 80 per cent of its books from India.

A few days after the Nepal government on May 29 announced a 10 per cent duty on imported books, publishers stopped picking up books at the Nepal customs point in protest and have demanded roll back of the move. With no text books coming in to Nepal, the student community has been affected the most, say publishers.

“Around 80-90 per cent of books in Nepal are imported, and most of it from India. Now the students, including those in Classes 10 and 11, are not getting text books on time. The National Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association of Nepal (NBPAN) has decided not to import any books in protest. We import 90-95 per cent of academic and text books from India,” a noted book seller in Kathmandu told IANS on phone, declining to be named.

According to Madhab Maharjan, Advisor NBPAN and owner of Mandala Book Point in Kathmandu, the 10 per cent customs duty will attract other taxes, like the cost, insurance and freight tax and other charges, further pushing up the price of imported books.

nepal, duty on books
According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”. Wikimedia Commons

“Books all over the world are sold at the printed price. With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students,” Maharjan told IANS over phone from Kathmandu.

He said they have requested the KP Sharma Oli government to remove the tax. “We have a long tradition of importing books from India. Religious books were imported from Benaras in the 20th century. Now the import of books is restricted to New Delhi,” said Maharjan, adding that scholars, academics and experts are raising their voices in protest against the move through the print and social media.

The 10 per cent tax will hamper the free flow of books and also affect the reading habit of students, says Maharjan. According to him, a Nepali journalist in an article in a local daily asked Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who is a PhD in economics, whether it was a theory of economics to impose the customs duty on books when the need was to improve the reading habits and culture of the people.

The reason for stopping the books at the customs point was because “as soon as we import we will have to increase the price, and secondly the old stocks have to be sold at the old price”.

“Thus there will be two prices of the book in one book store. This will create misunderstanding with students, readers, scholars, researchers and academics at large with whom we have to deal with everyday,” Maharjan said.

nepal, duty on books
Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. Wikimedia Commons

He added: “We do not want any one taking undue advantage of the situation, including politically motivating the students. Thus we have opted for this move not to import books till we come to a final decision.” According to him, the onset of the digital era has hit book sellers and publishers. “There are not many book shops left, and with moves like this book sellers may not survive for long.”

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. The earlier system was better to protect the local industry,” Maharjan said.

ALSO READ: Is Budget 2019-20 a Hope for India’s Development?

The number of students pursuing higher education in Nepal under Management, Humanities, Science and Education stands at around 400,000, and they would be directly hit by the duty on books imported from India. According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”.

K.P.R. Nair, Managing Director Konark Publishers in Delhi, said Indian publishers are aware of the situation in Nepal and are trying to help. “They have asked for our help, and we are going to help them,” Nair, a veteran in the publishing industry, told IANS. (IANS)