The Education Ministry’s move to issue permits to private companies to publish school textbooks in two more regions, has been criticised for not providing a level-playing field for the state-owned publisher and compromising the quality of books.
The ministry’s proposal to allow private publishers publish textbooks in the Central and Far-Western Development Region from next academic year will deal a ‘severe blow’ to Janak Educational Material Centre, which has had to compete with private presses and distributors in all regions except in the mid-west, say experts.
“We cannot compete with private companies as they get the books printed in India and import them paying one per cent duty. We pay 14 per cent duty just to import printing paper,” said JEMC General Manager Ram Chandra Silwal.
The state-owned centre, which has accumulated a loss amounting to Rs 320 million, has more than 1,200 staff on its payroll.
The government is going to provide new permits to private companies, despite the fact that books printed by them have proven to be substandard, said a former official.
This year, books printed by private publishers in the eastern and western regions were reported to be below standard, say JEMC sources. The private firms were also unable to get the books to remote areas.
Ministry officials attribute the decision to top officials being unduly influenced by private companies. Former secretary at the ministry, Jaya Ram Giri, said the state should not relinquish its duty of supplying reading materials.
“Students could not get hold of quality books as private firms adopt corner-cutting methods,” added Giri.Department of Education director Mahashram Sharma said the decision is as per government’s policy of promoting open competition.
(Source: The Himalayantimes)