The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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At Book Fair, check out World Bank

In the heart of Marxist country and barely 10 metres away from the Cuba stall on the Maidan, the 28th Book Fair in Calcutta has a surprise participant. No serpentine queues outside, very few books on display, but the 10-by-8 stall marks a beginning — the opening chapter of the World Bank in the biggest book fair in Asia.

“We have not come here to sell our publications. We are here with a three-point agenda. First and foremost is explaining to people the Bank’s diverse activities in the country. Besides, we would like to promote our publications, available both physically and electronically,” said Hema Balasubramanian, librarian, public information centre, in the New Delhi office of the Bank, who can now be found on the Fair ground.

In a bid to reach out to the non-English-speaking populace, brochures on the World Bank’s activity in the country and the speech of World Bank president James W. Wolfensohn, during the Board of Governors meet in Washington, are being distributed in Bengali. This covers the Bank’s cumulative exposure to various projects in India amounting to over $ 58 billion. Its involvement with various developmental projects, like district primary education, rural women’s development and tuberculosis control, also finds a mention.

“Though we are not here to dispel the allegations that are levelled against the organisation at various points of time, we strongly feel that some of the misconceptions must be addressed,” stated Hema. According to her, taking part in the Calcutta Fair is part of the organisation’s overall strategy of gaining greater visibility and telling people what the Bank stands for. After participating in the International Book Fair in Delhi last year, the Bank decided to come calling in Calcutta and contacted the Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild, who extended “all support” to set up the stall, at the centre of the Fair.

Besides displaying publications covering an entire gamut of subjects, ranging from child health and nutrition and AIDS prevention to volatility in the capital market to sustainable economic growth, the stall is also spreading awareness on its projects. The list of operational projects in the country with World Bank funding is available and anyone can run an on-line check at the computer in the stall for more details of the 16,000 projects and the reports, funded by the World Bank.

“The response till now is encouraging. Lots of students and academicians are visiting our stall for references in research projects. But there are commoners too, who don’t know much about us and ask us how to apply for loans from the World Bank. So, there is a lot of explaining to do and we are enjoying it,” smiled Hema.

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