Students may face scarcity of NCERT textbooks as printing work gets delayed

Basant Kumar Mohanty
Basant Kumar Mohanty
Posted on 04 Jan 2024
06:42 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

The NCERT in 2023 started a fresh process of empanelment of printers but the exercise remains incomplete, raising serious doubts about the smooth printing and distribution of textbooks

School students may face a scarcity of textbooks in the 2024-25 session beginning in April since the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is yet to complete its empanelment of printers and the printing work has already got delayed by over two months.

The NCERT in 2023 started a fresh process of empanelment of printers but the exercise remains incomplete, raising serious doubts about the smooth printing and distribution of textbooks.

The ministry of education (MoE) has decided to introduce new books for Classes III, VI, IX and XI in 2024-25, but the syllabus has not yet been finalised. After the syllabus is ready, the manuscripts for each book will be written. The manuscripts for each book, finalised by experts, are sent to the NCERT’s publication division that has editorial, sales and distribution wings.


The editorial wing puts the manuscript into a digital book form while the sales wing finds out how many pieces of new books would be realistically required for that year, keeping in view the fact that some students may use old books. The NCERT has five distribution depots and has empanelled private distributors too.

For the smooth distribution of books, the printing of books starts around October. The NCERT has 135 empanelled printers. The NCERT publishes a total of 400 titles for all classes. Nearly 10 to 15 crore books are printed every year. But this year, printing work has not yet started.

For Classes IV, V, VII, VIII, X and XII, new books will be introduced in 2025-26 and the printing of the existing books for these classes should have started in October. “The NCERT has started the empanelment of new printers. But the empanelment has not been completed,” said Shiv Kumar, a printer. The CBSE, the country's largest school board, uses NCERT books without any change. Nearly 39 lakh students were enrolled in Class X and Class XII under the CBSE in 2022-23. Nearly 20 other school boards use NCERT books with some modifications.

Printer policy

The NCERT has changed the eligibility requirement for the empanelment of printers. Only those firms that have at least three printers of the 2000-make can participate in the tender. When the NCERT had last empanelled printers in 2017, the technical requirement was at least three printing machines of 1990 vintage.

The lowest printing charge quoted by any of the printers above the base price fixed by the NCERT is considered to be the printing rate.

Those willing to print at that rate are empanelled. The NCERT buys papers according to the estimated demand and provides them to the empanelled printers.

The NCERT started the fresh process of empanelment of printers in 2021, identifying the 1990 model as the requirement. However, the process was cancelled in 2022 when the MoE wanted to revamp the process. After the ministry’s intervention, the new requirement of machines of the 2000 vintage was introduced.

A printer who did not wish to be quoted said this new requirement would make over 100 existing printing firms ineligible.

“A 2000-make printer costs Rs 3 crore. A printing firm will have to spend Rs 9 crore to get a volume of work of Rs 50 to 60 lakh in a year from the NCERT. Is it a feasible mode?” he said.

“Modiji is talking about ‘vocal for local’. But the government’s policy is crushing the micro, small and medium-scale enterprises. The NCERT’s policy is targeted to benefit the big players,” he added.

Fear of piracy

As printing has not started, there is a shortage of books in the market, which could lead to the circulation of pirated books.

“When the demand is high, some printers will sell pirated books with poor print quality and papers without watermarks. The printers may ask retailers to sell NCERT books with certain guidebooks which are heavily priced. The parents will be forced to buy guidebooks,” a printer said.

Several printers said the NCERT should scrap the practice of keeping a margin of profit of 150 to 175 per cent on books for Class IX to XII. The NCERT earns about Rs 200 crore a year from this surplus.

Pirated books flourish because of the underestimation of demand by the NCERT and the margin of profit, which works to the advantage of unscrupulous printers who print more than the consignment ordered and sell them on their own.

Rate hike call

The printing firms have demanded an increase in printing charges. Shiv Kumar, the printer, said the prices of ink, chemicals, glue, labour and transportation have more than doubled in the last 10 years, but the NCERT has not revised the printing charges. “We have demanded a 100 per cent increase in printing charges,” he said.

The Telegraph sent an email to NCERT director Dinesh Prasad Saklani asking about the reasons for changing the eligibility criteria for printers. His response is awaited.

Last updated on 04 Jan 2024
06:43 AM
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