Rs 150 crore textbook business ‘unregulated’

Parents suffer, administration in slumber
Rs 150 crore textbook business ‘unregulated’
The nexus between the private schools and publishers is that the management of private educational institutions asks parents to buy books from specific booksellers or sell them within the school premises. [Image for representational purpose only]Mubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar: Come October when annual results are announced, students are promoted to next classes and with it textbooks worth an estimated Rs 150 crore are sold in Kashmir, however there is no agency to monitor the prices.

The parents allege that they were being fleeced in the name of buying textbooks.

The nexus between the private schools and publishers is that the management of private educational institutions asks parents to buy books from specific booksellers or sell them within the school premises.

As per the officials, it happens mostly with students upto 7th class as for 8th onwards there are uniform books.

The two government departments – Education Department and Legal Metrology Department have been passing the buck on this issue, but parents continue to suffer.

According to sources, the prices are fixed by the publishers as per their sweet wish.

“And more often than not, the publishers, in nexus with private school managements, fix the prices,” they said. “So deep is this nexus and so high are the prices that a textbook of first standard whose cost could not be more than Rs 40 is being sold at Rs 250 with both the publisher and the school management sharing the undue profits.”

In absence of any check by any government agency, the publishers, according to the sources, enjoy full freedom to fix the prices as per their will.

“The school managements get a huge percentage of commission for endorsing these books to the students enrolled with them,” the sources said. “There is no accountability. Publishers mostly from outside the state send books with higher maximum retail prices (MRP). A book whose cost will be around Rs 30 is sent here with MRP tag of Rs 300 while their agents here set the murky deal with school management and fleece the gullible parents who have no other option than to pay.”

A local bookseller said that some outside publishers were promoting corrupt trade practices.

“They expand their business by presenting gifts and money. And this illegal amount is recovered by these publishers by increasing the rates proportionate with the amount spent during promotion,” they said. “The rates are increased by putting stickers, stamps or by screen printing. And unfortunately, there is no government agency that can ascertain the actual MRP of books sold in the market.”

A senior Legal Metrology Kashmir official said, “There is no such monitoring agency that can fix the prices of books. The rates are fixed by the company itself keeping the competition in mind. Our department ensures that dealers don’t temper MRP tags.”

He said that last year the department fined a number of booksellers and publishers and also imposed fines on them for tempering the MRP tags.

“We even seized a bookshop for such acts,” the official said.

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