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Kolkata’s iconic book fair may fall prey to demonetisation

Small publishers and booksellers are worst hit due to liquidity crunch

Gulf News

Kolkata: The Kolkata International Book Fair, the biggest in the world in terms of footfall, could fall prey to the liquidity crunch after the demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes in India.

According to the Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild, which organises the mega fair in January every year, fewer booksellers are willing to participate as sales have tumbled and they do not have the means to install card swipe machines while others do not have the money to set up stalls.

“The publishers are going through a tough time as most of the business is cash centric. Sales have fallen and small publishers are the worst hit. Generally by this time we meet the publishers to plan for the event. This time not many are showing interest,” said Tridib Chatterjee, secretary of the Guild. The fair is scheduled to start on January 25 and end on February 5.

Publishers themselves are ruing the fact that many of them may not be able to participate in the fair which has been going on since 1976. “The fair is like an annual celebration. But we are so cash strapped that we may not be able to participate this time,” said Sanjib Das, of Das Publishers.

Others inform that the bank has not been helpful in installing card-swipe machines. “I need to open a current account with a bank to install the card-swipe machine. Till now I had visited State Bank of India Branch several times but no has responded. Meanwhile I am losing business. As to mobile wallets, I am not so computer friendly and can’t use a smart phone,” said 70-year-old Narayan Ghosh, who has been into publishing for over 45 years.

Another publisher informed that his chartered accountants have advised them not to open new bank account required to get swipe machines as he can be harassed by tax officials as to the reasons of opening an account. “My chartered accountant was very clear that I should wait till the new financial year before I install a card machine as a new bank account will lead to further harassment from tax officials at the year end,” said Tammay Biswas, another publisher.

The cash crunch has already led to job losses in the publishing sector and more is likely to happen. “We generally employ around 100 additional people around this time of the year to prepare for the fair and the exam season which starts in March. This time I have just hired 27 people and had to let go the rest as it was not viable,” said Biswas.

Apart from the Kolkata book fair, several others are organised around this time of the year all over the state and most see a bleak future ahead. “Most of them will either be done as a token as there is hardly any footfall. People are busy lining up in front of banks and trying to get daily necessities. Who has time for book,” said Nirupam Chowdhury, assistant general-secretary of Bardhaman Book Fair that will begin on December 2.