Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kolkata book fair continues to attract controversy, attention

Kolkata may be full of book lovers, but it has not prevented its favourite annual book fair to be controversy free.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had slammed city environmentalists on Monday for protesting against the book fair and forcing the fair venue to be shifted from its traditional Maidan to Milan Mela grounds. “It is very unfortunate that there are voices in the city against the Kolkata Book Fair. They have all the right to fight for the environment but they do not have the right to be up in arms against the book fair. In 2008, the fair could not be organised because of them. Our future generations will judge who benefited from it,” said Bhattacharjee, while speaking at the inaugural function of the Kolkata Book Fair.

Referring to the 1997 fire that almost forced the Kolkata Book fair to call curtains, the CM said: “That was an accident, but I cannot accept city environmentalists raise their voice against the book fair.” The Publishers and Booksellers Guild, the organiser of the fair, paid Rs 37 lakh to the Milon Mela authorities though the latter had demanded Rs 62 lakh as rental charges.

Dim lights
A significant section was yet to get electricity. This included foreign stalls from Sweden, Spain and Mongolia. Many fans left the fair in a huff. “Many stalls are dark, while several others are unfinished. The billing counters are not working and card payments not being accepted. Why has the guild been allowed to open the fair without basic facilities?” demanded a book lover.

Even as the Indian book world has gradually shifted its centre to Delhi, Kolkata and its fair have failed to keep with the times. About150 stalls out of 650 are still without electricity, even as some frustrated stall owners confronted officials of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, organisers of the fair.

The biggest attraction this year is the expected launch of firebrand politician Mamata Banerjee's book, Nandi-Ma. The book, is expected to present her side of the story around the Nandigram killings on March 14, 2007 and the consequent movement that had the intelligentsia questioning the Bengal government's policy on land acquisition to set up a chemical hub at Nandigram in East Midnapore. It is being published by Dey's Publishing, which has already published 22 of Mamata's works, including the Trinamool supremo's first book, Upalabdhi, and the one before this, Ma Mati Manush.

The Kolkata Book Fair is on from January 27 to February 7, 2010. This is the 34th edition of the fair. The theme country this year is Mexico and the fair was inaugurated by Mexican author Jorge Volpi.

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