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Maharashtra: In India’s first village of books, locals hope for a tourism windfall

Laxmi Vasant Bhilare (75), who has been a housewife for over five decades now, looks after the books stacked in her premises in the village.

Written by Dipti Singh | Bhilar |
May 5, 2017 4:05:41 am
 Pustakanche Gaon, village of books, village of books in India, APJ Abdul Kalam , India news, National news, latest news, India news, National news, Devendra Fadnavis, At one of the homes with books in Bhilar, Thursday. Amit Chakravarty

Locals, hoteliers and strawberry farmers now don the role of a librarian for tourists who visit Bhilar near Panchgani, India’s first Pustakanche Gaon (village of books). Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, inaugurating the book village on Thursday, said that the state now aims to get UNESCO’s “Book capital” of the country or state title for the village.

Laxmi Vasant Bhilare (75), who has been a housewife for over five decades now, looks after the books stacked in her premises in the village. “I read these books myself too. Since the time they have stacked books here, it has become a great way to spend my evenings. Many old people who usually chit chat in free time, I see them reading books nowadays. I now know which book is kept where so I can guide the visitors too,” Laxmi said.

Owner of Anmol’s Inn, located on the main Bhilar Road, has stacked books written by leaders and personalities. The books include translations of APJ Abdul Kalam Wings Of Fire (Agni Pankh) and Turning Points. Owner of Anmol’s Inn, Rahul Bhilare, said, “Our Customers were delighted to see books stacked near the restaurant area. Our village will become a famous destination where they will get to read good books while enjoying strawberries.”

Nearly 25 premises, which include three temples, two schools, seven houses and several lodges and homestays spread on a stretch of 2-2.5 km in Bhilar village, 7-8 kms from Panchgani, formally opened their gates for public reading on Thursday.

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To make these libraries-cum-reading rooms look different, Maharashtra government had got 75 odd artists to paint the walls of these 25 premises at Pustakanche Gaon.

The state did crowd-sourcing by inviting Swatva, an informal WhatsApp-based artist and art-lovers’ network to take up the task of decorating the village by organising a three-day camp at the village.

“During a trip to England a few years ago, I got an opportunity to visit Hay-on-Wye, a town of books in Welsh town. Since that day, I wanted to set up such a book town/village in Maharashtra. We put a lot of efforts in shortlisting villages for the project. Even after we shortlisted Bhilar, we got a study done by IIT Bombay if there are possibilities of land caving in during rains. I am glad that the village of book is finally a reality today,” said Vinod Tawde, Minister of Marathi Language department and Cultural affairs.

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Inspired by the Welsh town, Hay-on-Wye, famous for its bookstores and literary festivals, the book village in the state was supposed to come up by November 2015 as announced by Tawde himself. The project got delayed for various reasons, including the study by IIT Bombay.

Tawde said: “The village administration has been very enthusiastic and working with us on the project. One of the factors which enabled us to complete the project. The best part is that the people of Bhilar have understood the concept of creating a book village very well, hence, it became easy for us to implement it on the ground.”

Tawde added: “The village administration has been very enthusiastic and working with us on the project. This is one of the factors which enabled us to complete the project. The best part is that the people of Bhilar have understood the concept of creating a book village very well, hence it became easy for us to implement it on the ground.”

Residents demand strawberry research centre

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Meanwhile, strawberry farmers and Bhilar residents demanded that a strawberry research centre should be set up in the village. “We are glad that out village was chosen for setting up the country’s first book village. However, in the presence of the CM, we also want to demand that the state government must set up a strawberry research centre in our village. It can help our village and other areas nearby to enhance the quality of strawberries,” said Balasaheb Bhilare, a resident of Bhilar and social activist.

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First published on: 05-05-2017 at 04:05:41 am

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