Guwahati, Aug. 8: Delhi-based rackets of books traders are flooding markets in the Northeast with pirated NCERT textbooks resulting in an annual loss of Rs 70 to Rs 80 lakh to the council.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) supplies textbooks worth Rs 13 crore for students of around 550 central-board affiliated schools in the seven states of the Northeast every year.
But the “rampant” sale of pirated textbooks has become a cause for concern for the council because not only are students getting poor quality books, but the government exchequer is also losing royalty money.
This fact emerged after Bhabesh Mishra, a bookseller based here at Panbazar, was arrested yesterday at Guwahati railway station with around 2,000 copies of pirated textbooks of Class XI and XII.
In the ensuing investigation, police learnt that Mishra had come to receive the books sent by Bimal Dua of Delhi.
The police realised that the books were pirated because they did not bear the NCERT hallmark or watermark and the paper quality was poor.
Although Mishra claimed to be innocent, the police produced him in a local court and he was remanded in three days’ custody.
City police sources today said they would soon visit Delhi because that is where the racket is based .
Piracy of books or unauthorized printing or reproduction of books is illegal and is punishable under the Copyrights Act, 1957.
Flouting these norms may invite imprisonment for six months to three years with fines ranging between Rs 50,000 and Rs 2 lakh.
The business manager of the regional centre of publication division of NCERT, Bibash Kumar Das, today told The Telegraph that a big racket was active in the Northeast, which sells books to the wholesalers at 40 per cent discount while original NCERT books are sold at 20 per cent discount to 15 authorised wholesale agents in the region (eight in Guwahati, one each in Shillong and Tura in Meghalaya, Agartala, Imphal and three in Itanagar).
“The racket brings the pirated books from Delhi through railways and sells them to wholesalers at 40 per cent discount. As a result, we are loosing royalty. The racket is gaining more ground as many state boards are switching over to NCERT curriculum,” Das said.
In Assam, the state board of secondary education had decided to switch over to NCERT curriculum and had acquired copyrights for printing NCERT books but sources said owing to delays in printing textbooks of English-medium schools, pirated book traders were taking advantage and flooding markets with pirated books.
But why can’t the NCERT reduce its printing costs and supply the books at lower prices?
Das said the NCERT was using 80 grams per square metre (GSM) paper and it is not possible to reduce the quality of paper as that may cause damage to the textbooks while being used by students.
“Our experts have found that at least 80 GSM paper is required to ensure that the books are not damaged during use in the whole academic year. Besides, we have to provide royalties to our expert group of academicians and writers who prepare our courses, whereas the pirated traders only print our books illegally and sell them in the market,” Das said.
The secretary of Assam Booksellers and Publishers Association, Dhiraj Goswami, said piracy of books was becoming serious in the state.