The Calcutta Book Fair organisers have extracted a promise of free water supply to and 50 per cent discount on the rent for the venue from chief minister Mamata Banerjee as a return gift for fulfilling her wish to extend the annual event by four days.
Officials said the largesse to the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which rakes in huge profits by holding the fair, would cost the cash-starved government around Rs 80 lakh.
The 37th edition of the fair will begin on January 26 — instead of January 30, as was announced earlier — in keeping with the wish of Mamata, who wants to promote small and medium publishers on the first four days of the fair.
The fair will end on February 10.
“The chief minister had requested for a change in the dates so that small and medium publishers find more time to do their business at the fair. Accordingly, we have decided to inaugurate the fair on January 26,” said Guild general secretary Tridib Chatterjee.
A Guild official said the chief minister had assured the organisers of a 50 per cent rebate on the rent for the ground — Milan Mela, off the Bypass. “The discount will help us as we have been told that the West Bengal Trade Promotion Organisation has scaled up the rates considerably this year.... There is also the promise of free drinking water supply to the ground. Besides, we believe there will be no charge for the adjoining parking lot.”
Last year, the total bill for the ground was around Rs 84 lakh. The Guild paid only around Rs 32 lakh. “The rest remains unpaid,” said a government official.
“The guild generates profits by renting out the stalls to publishers and various other companies, including banks and consumer goods sellers. There is no reason why the government should give it such a hefty discount,” the official said. “No such favours were extended to Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was denied Milan Mela to hold the city’s oldest trade fair.”