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Book crisis nightmare in schools

- Blackmarketeers make fast buck selling NCERT texts, reference resort for now

Paucity and blackmarketing of prescribed textbooks are back to haunt students of CBSE schools and their guardians in the new academic session.

Most of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) books for classes VI to XII are not available in the market. The prescribed textbooks for a few subjects have not arrived and those, which have come, are being sold at a premium by small bookstores.

Harried parents are running from one bookshop to another searching for NCERT textbooks for their wards lest they miss out on the early lessons being taught at school.

Sources said the books, which are being sold in black, are available at double their original prices. The small booksellers are buying the prescribed textbooks from the distributors and openly selling them at a premium without changing the stickers bearing the actual prices.

Pirated books too are available in the market in open violation of the Copyright Act, they added. Blackmarketing of books, which come under the Essential Commodities Act, is punishable under law but none has been punished so far.

Sumit Singh, a student of a city-based reputed school, said: “I have been promoted to Class IX this year. I have been trying my best to buy the NCERT books prescribed in our syllabus but I am not getting them anywhere. Not only me, most of my friends are facing the same problem.”

Reflecting the turmoil of the parents, Rakesh Kumar, a Kankerbagh resident, said: “I went to six to seven stores to buy new books for my child but could not get them despite my best efforts. My child studies in Class VIII in a reputed school. The first time I visited the bookshops, they told me to come back after a week. When I went there today, they instructed me to come back after the 15th of this month.”

Another parent, Rahul Singh, a resident of Ashiana Nagar, said: “My son has been promoted to Class IX and now getting the NCERT books has become a headache for us. I have been going from one shop to another for the books but till date, we have not got them. I am not talking about books of just one or two subjects but about all the subjects.”

Singh added: “Getting into the book stores is in itself a big problem because of the huge rush.”

“Books are being sold at a premium at places like Khajanchi Road and BM Das Road. Normally, the small shops get discounts while buying the books from the big ones. The latter also get discounts when they bring the books from publishers in Delhi. Parents usually do not want to go for reference books, which are almost three to four times costlier than the NCERT books,” said Ramesh Kumar, a resident of Rajendra Nagar.

Bharat Singh, the managing director of Gyan Ganga Limited, which is one of the main distributors of all educational books in Bihar for the past 27 years, said: “Around 4 crore books are required for students of classes I to XII in Bihar and Jharkhand this year. However, the supply is just around 1.5 crore. Around 50 lakh books are required for schools in Patna only. Of this, just 5 lakh books are required for students in classes I to V. There is no problem regarding the supply of books for those classes. A total of 45 lakh books are required but not even 10 lakh have arrived till date.”

Giving some insight into the price structure of NCERT textbooks, Singh said: “The books for classes I to VIII come at subsidised rates and above that, the books come at economical rates. The NCERT authorities say that they prepare the books for schools affiliated to CBSE. On the other hand, we have to make the books available to all. It is a big problem. Since we have to provide books to the schools according to the agreement, sometimes we have to buy the books from the black market and then supply them to the schools at maximum retail price. That translates into huge losses for us.”

At present, social science textbooks for classes VI to X, those of mathematics for classes VI to XII and science ones for classes XI and XII are not available in the market.

Sources said this shortage helps create a high demand for reference books published by private publishers. Not only do the reference books cost three or four times more than the prices of NCERT textbooks, the bookshops persuade students and guardians to buy those in the face of shortage of the prescribed ones.

However, school authorities did not seem to be much bothered about the predicament of the students.

Radhika K, the vice-principal of Radiant International School, said: “We place an order at Gyan Ganga Limited which supplies books to us. Last year, we had to face a lot of problems. Therefore, we placed the orders for the books around six to seven months back, not willing to take chances this time. Around 5 per cent of the students might not have got the books. But since our new academic session started today (Monday), we can be a bit lenient with them for another 10 to 15 days till they get the NCERT textbooks. For the time being, they can keep up with the progress in class by studying reference books.”

Another school principal, preferring anonymity, said: “Our students are facing problems getting the new textbooks. But a few of them are managing with old books that they have managed to get from their seniors.”

D.K. Bhattacharya, the in-charge of the NCERT regional centre, said: “Fifteen to 20 trucks, each carrying around nine to 10 tonnes of NCERT textbooks, have been sent to Bihar since January this year. Last week, few trucks reached the city and on Wednesday, more trucks would be arriving. From the press, the books are sent to the headquarters in Delhi and from there, we get the books. When we get the consignments from Delhi, we keep distributing them across the state.”

A source said: “According to the available figures, around 5 lakh books seem to have reached the state this year till now.”