Rs 150 cr textbook market in Kashmir goes unregulated

The whopping Rs 150 crore textbook market in Kashmir goes unregulated with parents alleging that they are being fleeced “jointly by the publishers and private schools” in this regard.

Asif Ahmad, a parent said that he had to buy books for his three year old kid for Rs 5200. “This is simply loot,” he exclaimed, adding that a simple alphabet textbook which won’t cost more than Rs 200 is being sold at Rs 525.

“There is a clear nexus between the schools and publishers and sellers,” he said.

According to sources, textbooks worth over Rs 150 crore are sold every year in Kashmir. “The prices are fixed by the publishers as per their sweet will, and in connivance with private school managements,” sources said.

“A textbook for first standard which should cost not more than Rs 40 to a parent, is being sold to him at Rs 350,” a parent said.

“Publishers mostly from outside of the state send books with higher MRPs. A book whose cost would be around Rs 30 is sent here with MRP tag of Rs 300. Publishers’ agents fix deal with school management and fleece the gullible parents,” sources said.

Joint Controller, Legal Metrology, Tanveer Ahmad said: “There is no monitoring agency to fix the prices of textbooks. The rates are fixed by the (publishers) company itself keeping the competition in mind.”

He added: “We can only act when the manufacturer has not mentioned MRP or smudged the price tag or the requisite information as mandated by the law is missing from the textbook.”

A senior Legal Metrology official said: “After the transformation of J&K into Union Territory, the consumer protection act 2019 was made applicable. However, the act is silent as to which department will have to act against the unfair trade practices such as overpricing of textbooks in Kashmir.”

It may be noted that the government has barred private schools from keeping textbooks and uniforms available at specific shops.