Government must focus on the number of books read, says Manmohan Singh on the 100 years of OUP

Noting that there was 'great hunger for knowledge in our country', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said our people, particularly our youth, must have access to quality books.

Speaking at a function here organised to mark 100 years of Oxford University Press, Dr. Singh said while publishing houses may worry more about the number of books sold, the Government must focus on the number of books read.

"The challenge for us is to widen the population of readers, not just the market for books. It is with this objective in mind that we recently commissioned a National Mission for Libraries, anchored in our Ministry of Culture. The Mission will focus on improvement of the public library system of the country, particularly concentrating on the States where library development is lagging behind."

Dr. Singh said the National Mission for Libraries hopes to cover about 9,000 libraries in three years. "It will conduct a national census on libraries, work towards upgradation of infrastructure of reading resources and seek to modernise and promote the networking of libraries."

The Prime Minister urged every State Government, Municipality and Panchayat to pay special attention to the setting up and maintenance of public libraries, including community, locality and village libraries. "The mission that I have been talking about cannot succeed through governmental effort alone. We have to rope in resources available in the community, private sector and non-government organisations. Affordable modern information technology can be deployed today to extend the resources of our libraries. A young reader sitting in his village public library should be able to access books and information from across the world."

Pointing out that OUP has provided a window to the entire range of intellectual opinion in the country, Dr. Singh said: "I wish to take note of two particular initiatives. The first is the effort of the OUP in publishing bilingual dictionaries in Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Marathi. The other is OUP's translations programme through which 100 titles, including a number of anthologies of Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam Dalit and Tamil Dalit writing, have been published."

OUP Managing Director Manzar Khan said: "With the demand for educational materials growing, OUP India is equally determined to provide the best educational products along with innovative digital solutions for teachers and students to facilitate learning."