Experts and insiders have described the government’s decision to keep the Amar Ekushey Book Fair open amid the lockdown as ‘self-contradictory’.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs has decided to keep the book fair open amid the weeklong lockdown beginning today aiming to curb the spread of coronavirus.In a notification issued on Sunday, it announced new timings (from 12pm to 5pm) of the fair.
In an effort to stem the surge in coronavirus cases, the government has issued restrictions on the movement of people and other activities for seven days from today.
Earlier, the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 had also recommended that the Amar Ekushey Book Fair be closed due to the rise in both deaths and infections from coronavirus.
Terming the decision to keep the book fair open as ‘self-contradictory, reckless and immature’, many publishers and authors have urged the government to close it immediately to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
Additional Executive Director of Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh and publisher of Bhashachitra Khandaker Sohel said, “When the government is asking the people to stay at home and discouraging them not to venture outside without any emergency, the decision to keep the Amar Ekushey Book Fair open is completely self-contradictory and illogical.”
“It won’t be possible for the publishers to bring sales persons to the fair arranging private transport. How many readers will throng the book fair amid the suspension of the public transport and how the publishers will be able to recoup the daily costs of operating stalls?” he added.President of Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh Farid Ahmed,
however, did not want to make any comment regarding the matter.
While talking about the cost of bringing the sales persons to the fair, he said, “The publishers who will be able to transport the salesmen to the fair will attend it. Others will close their stalls.”
Publisher of Shrabon Prokashoni Robin Ahsan said, “I don’t know why the Bangla Academy and our publishing industry leaders are so desperate to continue the book fair amid the lockdown overlooking the overall situation.”
“Is business more important than life? If visitors gather on the fair premises without following health guidelines and Covid-19 spreads, who will take the responsibilities?” he said.
Eminent rhymester Lutfor Rahman Riton said, “When organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair have suspended this year’s edition, was it necessary to arrange our book fair? Still there’s scope of reviewing the decision. Saving lives should be the first priority.”
Asked about the decision of keeping the Amar Ekushey Book Fair open amid the countrywide lockdown, Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Siraji said, “If we speak of closing the book fair, media opposes it and if we continue the book fair maintaining health guidelines, media criticises us! What should we do? We’re continuing the fair after discussion with all.”
The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 on April 1 suggested closure of the book fair as the country is witnessing a surge in both deaths and infections from coronavirus.
Earlier on March 31, the Bangla Academy announced that the fair would remain open from 3pm to 6:30pm on weekdays while from 11am to 6:30pm on weekends.