Books for India’s northeast, courtesy Scholars Without Borders

April 17th, 2008 - 11:10 am ICT by admin  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) For Dul Hussain, a student of Dibrugarh University in Assam who is preparing for his civil services exams, book hunting has become a regular feature. Most of the preparatory texts he needs are not available at bookstores or libraries there. But thanks to an initiative of a Delhi-based professor, his troubles might just come to an end.

Scholars Without Borders, an initiative of Ram Ramaswamy, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) whose aim is to make books available to all, is now focusing its attention on the northeast.

“I have grown up in Nagaland, so I know that lack of good book stores and not up-to-date libraries are a major handicap for the people, especially students, there,” Ramaswamy said.

“But through the website of Scholars Without Borders or through an SMS, one can order just about any book without having to pay anything extra. Since we work with all the well-known publishers, we have almost everything that is there in their catalogue,” Ramaswamy told IANS.

One can access their website at To actually live up to its name and reach out to people who know little about this platform, they have now decided to go campaigning in the northeast.

“The Ford Foundation is funding us to go to the northeast and have workshops with students from town to town, get in touch with bookstores and libraries and basically make the people there aware of our service.

“I will go to Guwahati in Assam in May this year and then start the workshops in June-July. I have a friend in Imphal, Manipur, who is also helping out in this context,” Ramaswamy said.

“With the internet and the mobile phone revolution, I am sure I can reach out to students even in the remote corners of the country who don’t have much choice in terms of books, thanks to a handful of book shops.

“Like the programme in the northeast, we will also go to Jammu and Kashmir to make people aware of our services,” he added.

For those like Hussain, it’s a huge help.

“After searching endlessly for a copy of ‘Wizard of Current Affairs’, a comprehensive magazine to prepare for the civil services, I finally placed an order for it on the Scholars Without Borders website.

“For students like me, it couldn’t have got better. It’s like a treasure trove of books, magazines, journals et al!” he said.

Functional for the last two years, Scholars Without Borders has a range of books in its catalogue - agriculture, art and architecture, economics, education, law, film studies, children, music, gender - you name it.

And it has got a huge response from all quarters, even from as far as the US and Canada.

“We keep getting a lot of orders for books on Gandhi from the US and Canada, besides orders from within India,” said Jose Robin, who works full time along with Ramaswamy on the website.

He also has a team of students who work part time in his endeavour. If they get an order for a book which is unavailable on their website, they get in touch with the publisher and try to get it.

“We however concentrate more on Indian books, those published here, because the ones from abroad come with a heavier price tag. Payment for the books can be done online, through bank transfer, demand draft, cash…anyhow. Once you get the book, you pay,” Ramaswamy said.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at

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