NUZHAT HASAN, Director of the National Book Trust, India, initiated the publishing of over 170 Braille titles towards developing an inclusive policy in the publishing industry. Her emphasis is on taking books to the remotest corners of India. Nuzhat Hasan speaks about the NBTs inclusive plan.
Could you brief us about the history of the NBT and the reason behind its establishment?
The NBT was established on August 1, 1957, with the objectives of publishing reasonably priced high quality books for children and general adult readers, and promoting a culture of reading.
The NBT is drawing up a National Action Plan for the Readership Development among the Youth. Tell us about the plan and its purpose.
Young people form the largest segment of the population in India. The literacy rate among this segment is also much higher than the national average. Our interactions showed that in order to connect with the youth on a sustained manner and at a macro level, a focussed national publishing programme was needed.
The National Council for Applied Economic Research has undertaken on our behalf the first national level readership survey among the youth from the perspective of the book-reading habit. This is the first step towards developing the Action Plan.
What has been the focus of the NBT publications in recent times?
In recent years, the NBT started series on popular social science, Afro-Asian countries, the Indian diaspora, Indian literature, and so on. We brought out a collection of Sri Lankan short stories, Bridging Connections, which brings together representative writings in Tamil, Sinhala and English.
On the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the trust, the Golden Jubilee Anthologies project was undertaken. The idea was to publish authentic anthologies of post-Independence poetry and short stories in 22 Indian languages and plays in eight Indian languages. Now, 31 anthologies have been published, which include many in smaller languages.
You talked about an inclusive policy towards publishing. What do you mean by this? How have you addressed the growth of readership in regional languages?
We bring out books for Braille readers, organise book fairs and mobile exhibitions even in far-flung areas, workshops for the neo-literates and children in smaller language region, and the north-east. We encourage publication of original manuscripts written in regional languages.