Rob tax-payer, prop book fair

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By DEEPANKAR GANGULY
  • Published 24.01.08
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Book Fair 2008 will leave the civic body — and the city’s taxpayers — poorer by close to Rs 70 lakh.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is spending that much money to doll up Park Circus Maidan for the fair, a commercial venture of a private organisation being supported by the civic body.

In return, the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which organises the fair, is paying the civic body a paltry Rs 2.46 lakh — Rs 2.21 lakh for using the ground and Rs 25,000 to the CMC heritage fund.

“Had the CMC charged according to the market rate for using the entire ground for a commercial purpose, the Guild would have had to cough up Rs 1.5 crore,” said mayoral council member (parks and gardens) Faiyaz Ahmed Khan.

Last year, a circus group had to pay Rs 14 lakh to the CMC for using a part of the ground. “To accommodate the Book Fair, the CMC had to turn down an offer of Rs 7 lakh from another circus group,” said an official of the civic body’s parks and garden wing.

In November, when the Guild first approached the CMC for permission to hold the fair in Park Circus, Khan had ruled out any concessions.

“The Book Fair is a sales promotion event. If we can collect rent from a sick industry like the circus, why not from the Guild?” Khan had said.

The mayor, however, sang a different tune. Defending the mammoth expenditure, mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya said: “Millions will visit the ground during the fair and it is the civic body’s duty to ensure that they are not inconvenienced.”

But why was the Guild allowed the concession at the cost of the taxpayers? “Book Fair 2008 is being held with support from the CMC,” the mayor said, hinting that the concession is actually a price the civic body is paying to see its name on the Book Fair banner.

But what will the civic body gain from the expensive branding? “It’s stupid of the CMC to make such a sacrifice when most of the city’s parks are lying in neglect for want of funds,” said an official.

Last month, the mayor had proposed to the Guild that Book Fair 2008 be held as a joint venture with the CMC. “After much deliberation, we have decided to hold the fair with support from the CMC,” said Sudhangshu Dey of the Guild.