The government is planning to replicate a successful book reading movement in Gujarat at the national level.
Interestingly, the state campaign—Vanche Gujarat—had been publicly proclaimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his “favourite programme as Gujarat chief minister”. It succeeded in making 25 lakh school children read a total of one crore books in under a year.
To be steered by the human resource development ministry, the mega ‘Vanche Bharat’ project will aim at unleashing a book popularising and reading movement across the country and to inculcate the reading habit in about 400 million school and college students besides reviving dying libraries.
The precursor to the Gujarat Vanche campaign lay in a pilot project by engineer-turned book lover Mahadev R Desai in Navsari in Gujarat.
The project’s success caught Modi’s attention and he expanded it to the state level in January 2010. The programme roped in both private and government libraries, students of schools and colleges and voluntary organisations.
“We have to build a national movement to inculcate the reading habit — be it reading the Geeta or the Bible or anything else. A permanent body and infrastructure that will sustain the movement is critical to the entire idea,” Desai told HT. The 2013-14 budget for Gujarat, as part of the Vanche Gujarat programme, the state government had set aside `25 crore to strengthen libraries, archeology and museums.
A senior government source familiar with the latest developments told HT: “It is being conceived on a national scale now involving huge investment. A few meetings have already taken place under the auspices of the HRD ministry where all stakeholders were invited. The National Book Trust also made a presentation. Many MPs have also written to the government seeking a replication of the campaign nationwide.”
“The way forward will be laid down by the National Book Promotion Council (NBPC) by next month,” said another key official said unwilling to be identified. The 20-member NBPC is set to be reconstituted next month.
Launched in 2010, Vanche Gujarat reached out to children through mobile reading vans, neighbourhood libraries, street plays, book donation drives and various competitions and activities. On October 30, 2010, between 9 AM and 10 AM, more than 60 lakh people read together at a time in public places including jails.