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Govt.'s free textbook scheme opens a chapter of woes for sellers

Shastry V Mallady

Shopkeepers left with huge stocks but no sign of buyers

MADURAI: : There are only a few takers for school textbooks at shops this year following the State Government's recent announcement in the Assembly on free distribution of textbooks for all students of Government schools upto Standard X.

Even as the scheme is expected to benefit lakhs of school children, a section feels badly hit and looks for help from the Government. The licensed textbook sellers of Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation, most of whom occupy the Pudumandapam opposite the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, have "piled up stocks purchased already."

One of the affected centres is Madurai, which supplies textbooks to retail sellers in the surrounding districts and has a large sales turnover every year.

"Last year, we bought huge stocks in anticipation of demand but there will not be much sales now as students are going to get the textbooks free. The Government can help us by providing an exchange offer by taking the books of up to Standard X and give higher secondary books in return," says M. Sikanthar Mohaideen, secretary, Tamil Nadu Book Sellers' Association, Madurai.

The Pudumandapam complex that houses 26 licensed textbook shops is yet to pick up activity unlike the earlier years when sales commenced by first week of April.

As the textbooks were purchased from the Textbook Corporation on a no-return basis, the shopkeepers are left with stocks and no buyers. According to one of the licensed members of the association, A. K. Ramesh, the shops have books from Standards VI to X of the State Board.

Welcoming the Assembly announcement as it helps poor children, the members say, "We have no other business except books. The Government may consider taking back the stock from us for free distribution and give us higher secondary books or at least notebooks."

One of the traders here says every shop has a textbook stock worth not less than Rs.40, 000 and hence small dealers will be the worst affected.

According to R. Kannappan, another member, Madurai district alone has 60 licensed dealers and the region had purchased textbooks worth Rs.1.2 crore from the Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation last year.

Mr. Mohideen points out that 95 per cent of the sales will be affected for any single dealer as books of classes I to X have high volume of sales.

Happy with Plus-Two textbook supply

Even as it makes an appeal for an exchange offer, the association is happy with the State Government over supply of Plus Two textbooks well in time this year due to which 65 per cent of sale is already over. Last year, there was a huge delay in getting the books but it has been corrected now, the shopkeepers say.

Their appeal to authorities is only for replacing stocks of textbooks upto Standard X.

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