India’s National Book Trust To Produce ‘Coronavirus Studies Series’

In News by Porter Anderson

Even as New Delhi’s air quality improves during the nation’s three-week lockdown, the National Book Trust is developing content responsive to the COVID-19 crisis.

A man leaves a Nizamuddin mosque in New Delhi prior to the lockdown imposed on March 25 by the Modi government. The neighborhood has developed a cluster of coronavirus cases. Image – iStockphoto: Pranay Chandra Singh

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘We Have a Significant Role to Play’
India’s National Book Trust is a government program housed in the ministry of human resource development’s department of higher education. Its role is supportive of the country’s literature in English, Hindi, and other Indian languages.

“Realizing the extraordinary psychological, social, economic, and cultural significance of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Book Trust’s media messaging reads, the program “is launching a publishing series titled the ‘Coronavirus Studies Series’ to document and to provide relevant reading materials for all age groups for the post-Coronavirus readership needs.”

With the nation of 1.3 billion people under a severe three-week lockdown, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 4,314 confirmed COVID-19 cases today–up from a reported 2,300 on Friday (April 3). So far, 118 coronavirus-related deaths have been tallied. The concern for the population is that the virus could go into an explosive outbreak because of the crowded living conditions in many parts of the country.

The chairman of the trust, Govind Prasad Sharma, is quoted, saying, “In response to a national crisis of this proportion, we believe that as a national institution it’s our duty to take initiatives to provide support in the form of new reading materials.

“The ‘Coronavirus Studies Series’ is to be our long-term contribution to prepare and engage readers with affordable books in various Indian languages in the identified subject areas. It will also provide a platform for authors and researchers willing to contribute in this genre.”

Shri Yuvraj Malik, who directs the National Book Trust, says, “As a body for reading promotion, we find that we have a significant role to play.

“Accordingly, we’ve started #StayHomeIndiaWithBooks initiatives by uploading PDFs of some of our select and bestselling titles for free downloads, and we ‘ve been receiving tremendous response.”

‘A Comprehensive View’

“Taking a comprehensive view, we’re launching this publishing series. As the first step, we’ve set-up a study group comprising experienced and young psychologists and counselors to prepare books on ‘The Psychosocial Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Ways to Cope.’ We hope to bring out both e-editions and print editions of these books soon enough, as support materials for the readers.”

The project is assigning research leadership for working teams on several themed areas of concern:

  • Coronavirus-affected families
  • Elderly people
  • Parents, with a special focus on women’s and mothers’ needs
  • Children and Adolescents
  • Professionals and workers
  • Medical and essential service providers
  • Differently-abled, special needs, and mentally challenged population

And in explaining the approach, says Shri Kumar Vikram, the trust’s senior editor, “we’ve identified various areas for preparing suitable reading materials.

“Besides a sub-series on psychological and social impacts of the outbreak, we’re preparing children’s books to let them know about ‘Our Coronavirus Warriors'”—India’s first responders and health care workers—”and other story and picture books related to various aspects of the pandemic to create awareness.

“Also, in the pipeline are books focused on art, literature, folklore, economic and sociological aspects, science/health awareness emerging out of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the lockdown, are also in the pipeline.”

‘The Cleanest Air Anyone Can Remember’

A March 22 shot from Gobardanga in West Bengal shows markets closed, streets empty. Image – iStockphoto: Soumen Tarafder

In a related development, Publishing Perspectives readers may recall our November coverage of The Great Smog of India and its author Siddharth Singh, whose work addresses the country’s ongoing public-health crisis in air quality.

As reported by Amrit Dhillon in today’s edition of the South China Morning Post, “After months spent under virtual house arrest with doors and windows firmly sealed against the record levels of pollution, people in the Indian capital are flinging everything open to breathe in great gulps of clean air and feast on blue skies.

“The virus that causes the Covid-19 illness has done wonders for the air. With the lockdown shutting factories, halting construction, taking cars off the road, ending flights, and immobilizing almost 1.3 billion Indians, the result is the cleanest air anyone can remember for a long time.”

Dhillon writes that environmentalists are lobbying the government “to treat this unintended consequence of the lockdown as a chance to stop its ‘obsession with development that comes at the cost of the environment and people’s lungs.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Indian market is here. And more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.