Reports have surfaced that the Maharashtra government has purchased for school supplementary reading more books on Prime Minister Narendra Modi than Mahatma Gandhi and B R Ambedkar and the Congress on Tuesday alleged that for some of the books, the state has paid a higher price than the market rate. The books — 1.3 crore copies of 1,600 titles in Hindi, Marathi, English and Gujarati — are for supplementary reading for students in Classes I to VIII in state schools and were purchased by the School Education Department’s Maharashtra Academic Authority, Pune. The Congress also said that one of the publishers, Pune-based Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, has links with the RSS and the government was “favouring” this publisher.
The state government said a transparent e-tendering process was followed to decide on the publisher. Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana agreed that for some of the books the cost was higher than the market price but attributed this to different paper and better colour printing.
For example, Marathi books such as Bal Nachiket and Maharshi Atri have been purchased at Rs 50 per copy from Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, Pune. The books are available at Rs 20 each from the publishing house. In all, the state has purchased 7,260 copies of Bal Nachiket and 1,635 copies of Maharshi Atri from the publisher.
“The publishing house, Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, has links with the RSS and the government has purchased a Rs 20 book for Rs 50,” said Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Congress leader and Opposition leader in the state Assembly. Patil also distributed a receipt for the books purchased from the publication for Rs 20.
The books purchased by the department include 72,933 Marathi copies of Chacha Choudhry Aur Narendra Modi, 69,416 Marathi copies of Narendra Modi, 7,148 English copies of Chacha Choudhry and Narendra Modi, 424 Hindi copies of Pradhanmantri Narendra Modi and 33 Gujarati copies of Na Chacha Choudhry aur Narendra Modi. The government has also purchased 72,933 Marathi copies of a book on Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Among the other titles purchased are 7,260 Marathi copies of Ek Mahatma, 2,675 Marathi copies and 33 Gujarati copies of a book titled Mahatma Gandhi. Two books on Ambedkar were purchased — 4,310 Marathi copies and 510 English copies. The department is also purchasing 1,635 Marathi copies of a book on former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and 1,635 Marathi copies of Goshti Gandhi Nehru Ani Rajendrachya.
Patil said the government had purchased books worth Rs 8.17 crore from Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana. “Why is the government favouring one publishing house?” he asked. The government clarified that the books were purchased after a due e-tendering process. Minister for School Education Vinod Tawde said: “The entire process was completed in a transparent manner. An expert committee has selected these books.”
Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana admitted the difference in prices of some books in the market and those sold to the government. “It is true that the price of Bal Nachiket and Maharshi Atri is Rs 20 per copy. But, we have quoted a higher price for supplying books to the government as we used different paper and coloured printing,” said Rajan Dhavalikar of Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana.