The Bengal government on Sunday waived the trade licence fee that stall owners at the International Kolkata Book Fair have paid for the 45th edition.
The move came days after chief minister Mamata Banerjee handed the Central Park ground in Salt Lake, where the fair is being held, to the Publishers and Booksellers Guild as the permanent venue for the annual event.
“The decision was conveyed to the guild officials early on Sunday. This was in keeping with the pro-people endeavours of our chief minister,” state urban development minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said.
There are around 800 stalls, including 200 for little magazine publishers, in this edition of the fair. Last year, the fair was not held because of the Covid pandemic.
Officials said all stall owners had to pay the trade licence fee to the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation. The fee varied between Rs 680 and Rs 1,600, depending on the size of the stalls.
Following the waiver, all stall owners will be eligible for a refund, guild officials said.
“We are grateful to chief minister Mamata Banerjee for this gesture. It will help boost the morale of all participants, including the publishers of countless little magazines,” said Sudhangshu Sekhar Dey, president of the guild.
Booksellers and publishers in Kolkata have been reeling from the fallout of the pandemic-induced lockdown and Cyclone Amphan.
While small and medium players saw their sales plunge to their nadir, big houses diverted their resources towards online sales, e-books and audio books.
“The Covid and Amphan severely hit our sales over the last two years to the extent that we had to borrow at a high interest rate to set up a small stall at the fair this year,” said a small-time publisher of Bengali books.
“The sales during this two-week fair is our last chance at survival and such waivers from the state government are a huge boost for publishers like us.”
Guild officials said the chief minister, who pens several books that are released at every book fair, had expressed her concern about the plight of the majority of publishers and booksellers after being briefed about the state of the industry. Officials at Nabanna said Mamata had recently asked minister Bhattacharya to ensure that stall owners were offered a waiver of the trade licence fee immediately.