Sir — The chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has got it all wrong. War has not been declared on books; war has been declared against the flouting of norms, government apathy and disregard for the sentiments of local residents. Books do not cause pollution Mr Chief Minister, but book fairs do.
The sooner this is realized, the better for Calcutta. What makes matters worse is that the government has set up a panel of advisors to come up with a decision regarding the fate of the book fair. What purpose will such a panel serve? All that it might manage to ensure is a hefty loss for the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, a spoiled patch of green and a sea of sneezing and coughing citizens, some of whose lungs will be permanently damaged.
Sunil Garodia, Calcutta
Sir — It is indeed heartening that the Calcutta high court has delivered a sound judgment against holding the Calcutta Book Fair on the Park Circus Maidan. Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose deserve a standing ovation from the citizens of Calcutta for their hard-hitting judgment. The media too have played a part in making citizens aware of their constitutional rights. I have been a regular visitor and a frequent buyer at the book fair for several years now. During my visits, I have observed that the greater number of people on the fair grounds wander about aimlessly or gorge on food. Books are hardly what draws them to the fair. Book sales may increase during the fair, but the environmental costs incurred in the process are high. The argument that the fair must be held because it is part of the city’s cultural heritage is baffling, as the editorial, “Very fair” (Jan 29) pointed out.
The fact that should be kept in mind is that the Calcutta Book Fair is not a public service. The state government and the CMC (which, as the editorial mentions, should be concerned with the city’s daunting civic problems) have no business giving support to any particular profit-making trade body. The Publishers and Booksellers Guild is not doing anybody a favour, but trying to maximize its profits. The 10-per cent discount offered on books at the fair is now offered at most bookstores. When commercial interests get State sponsorship at the cost of citizens’ rights and environmental issues, the judiciary should intervene to prevent such transgressions.
Amit Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The book fair is purely a trade fair. Which is what makes the government’s emotional attachment to it at the cost of public welfare alarming. Why should the mayor or the chief minister go out of his way to protect the profits of these publishers? The citizens must see through the ‘concern’ of the intellectuals who have agreed to be on the advisory board set up by the government to reach a verdict on the fair. Their interest is far from ‘cultural’ and citizens must call their bluff.
Deba Pratim Ghatak, Durgapur
Sir — The so-called war over the book fair is going too far. There is no need to go overboard with our love for literature. Bengal has many other cultural activities, which may be pursued as proudly as its love for books. The government should immediately arrange for a permanent venue for the fair in agreement with the Publishers and Boosellers Guild so that a similar ruckus and the consequent embarrassment are not caused when the time comes for the 2009 book fair.
Ashok Kumar Ghosh,Calcutta
Sir — By pitching in for the holding of the book fair on the Maidan, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya is lending support to the destruction of the environment. The Telegraph’s picture of the central reference library at the corporation headquarters, which is in a shambles, has exploded the myth of the mayor’s apparent concern for books (“CM, look no further to begin your book battle”, Jan 31). The treasure trove within the corporation premises is being destroyed but the mayor does not appear to be bothered.
We have numerous government- or private-run libraries stacked with valuable books, all of which can satiate the hunger of the true book-lover. If the mayor is worried about the future of small publishers, they may be housed in the upcoming Barnaparichay in College Street market. The mayor’s domain of activity should be strictly demarcated and he should be made more accountable to civic matters.
Sir — A hue and cry is being raised over holding the environmentally-disastrous book fair raised on the Park Circus Maidan. However, no one seems to mind the other polluting agencies. Take the ear-splitting roar that emanates from the Metro stations every time a train passes through. Surely the noise is well above permissible limits. This is caused by the fact that carriage windows are left open and are not sealed like underground trains in other parts of the world. The authorities ought to wake up to this undesirable form of pollution and renovate the train carriages to keep up with international standards.
Kunal Lohar, Calcutta