I am very happy to inaugurate the New Delhi World Book Fair, 2014.
An international book fair of this magnitude is one of the best manifestations of India’s liberal, democratic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and secular society where competing ideas and ideologies have equal space. These values constitute the essence of India. We must do everything possible to preserve, protect, promote and nurture these ideals.
India’s pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity is our greatest strength and a multiple source of inspiration for every Indian. We must be uncompromising in rejecting intolerance, prejudice and hatred. Book fairs such as this should remind us that our history and traditions have always celebrated the ‘argumentative’ Indian and not the ‘intolerant’ Indian. Multiple views, thoughts and philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries in our country and freedom of speech is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
The New Delhi Book Fair which started in 1972 has played the twin role of being a cultural as well as business hub quite admirably for more than four decades. It is an important initiative which helps spread reading habits and contributes to creating a book culture within our community. Reading not only enriches knowledge but helps us socially connect. Books carry the wisdom of generations. Reading helps widen views, encourage imagination and expand mental horizons.
I am happy that the theme of this year is “Kathasagara: Celebrating Children’s Literature”. It is said that children are the best readers of literature because they have no patience for pretence. India has had a long and rich tradition of literature written for children as manifest in our folk and oral storytelling traditions, panchatantras, mythologies, puranas, jataka tales etc. Literary giants like Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand, Abanindranth Tagore and Sukumar Roy have written for children.
No human society can develop in all its dimensions if it does not produce meaningful literature for its children and young readers. I call upon authors, publishers and the Government to do their utmost to promote children’s literature. I also appeal to parents and teachers to inculcate in children the habit of reading at a young age itself. Implanting the habit of reading in children will ensure that it becomes a skill that stands them in good stead throughout their lives.
I am happy that Poland is the Guest Country this year. Poland is a country and a culture with which India has had close relations for long years. I understand the Fair will exhibit Polish works and is providing a space for Polish authors, critics, illustrators, photographers, publishers etc. to interact with their Indian counterparts and public. An illustrated book for children titled Little Chopin on the childhood of the legendary Polish music composer, Fredric Chopin has been published in English by NBT in association with Polish Institute. I congratulate them on this initiative and hope more such literary exchanges will be made possible due to the participation of Poland as Guest country this year.
There is a growing perception that with the coming of Internet and other communication facilities, books may take a back seat in our cultural and social life. I disagree with this view. It may have a temporary influence. I believe the habit of reading books and printed material is inherent in the human civilization. No technological up-gradation can replace this habit. For a developing country like India, which has diverse needs and aspirations, printed books and digital media must be complementary and not rival to each other.
India is one of the top six publishing countries in the world today. In terms of English-language books, it is the third largest after the US and the UK. The number of books being published in India is estimated to be growing at 25-30% every year. While this reflects the growing hunger for books among the masses, it also reflects a story that is integrally linked with India’s growth as a knowledge economy. Our oldest scriptures prescribed that the framework of society should be established around the pillars of knowledge. Our challenge is to convert knowledge into a democratic force and take it into every corner of our country. There is a great hunger for knowledge in our country. As a nation, our motto, therefore, should be “All for knowledge, and Knowledge for all”.
I welcome all of you, especially the distinguished foreign participants of the Fair to this wonderful event and wish the Fair a grand success. Book fairs are events which provide a forum for activities to enrich the intelligent mind, inspire new ideas and at same time also offer business opportunity. I declare the 2014 New Delhi World Book Fair open ! Happy reading to all of you.