PM promises youth, children access to quality books

March 21st, 2012 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) The Oxford University Press officially celebrated its centenary in India Wednesday with a pledge by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide people, particularly the youth, access to quality books.

In a commemorative address, the prime minister, a doctoral fellow at Nuffield College in Oxford in 1962 and an Oxford University Press author, said “he saw a great hunger for knowledge in the country”.

“While publishing houses may worry more about the number of books sold, we in the government must focus on the number of books read. The challenge for us is to widen the population of readers, not just the market for books,” the prime minister said.

Walking down memory lane, the prime minister said he clearly recalled the day five decades ago when he heard with great joy that the Oxford University Press had decided to accept his doctoral thesis for publication.

“I was fortunate to have the famous economist John Hicks as my examiner. He was also the trustee of OUP. It also made my task easier to get my dissertation published,” Manmohan Singh said.

He said these days, “parents often lament the decline in the reading habits among children”.

“But, given the crowds one sees at our book fairs and the growth of the publishing industry in India I am not sure if we exaggerate this fear. For example, I understand that OUP India’s own sales have tripled over the last ten years,” the prime minister said.

The prime minister said he wanted to take note of two particular initiatives. The first was “the effort of the press in publishing bilingual dictionaries in Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Marathi and many others.” And the other was the “translations programme, through which 100 titles, including a number of anthologies of Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam Dalit and Tamil Dalit writing, have been published”.

The Oxford University Press released a festschrift to Manmohan Singh, “India’s Economic Reforms and Development”, edited by Isher Judge Ahluwalia and I.M.D. Little under its new imprint, Oxford India Perennials.

Noted British economist John Vickers released “Atlas of Ancient India” by historian Irfan Habib and Faiz Habib to mark the occasion.

The Oxford University Press began publishing in India in 1912 with the country’s first President S. Radhakrishnan’s book, “Essentials of Psychology”.

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