At present, Books, e-Books and CD-ROMs (other than Entertainment) are not exempt from Goods and Services Tax – Central GST at the Union level and State GST at State level, introduced by the Government of India. The Ministry of Finance had issued two negative lists of services in 2011 but surprisingly books have not been included in these lists. From time immemorial, the country has a long and glorious tradition of not taxing knowledge and learning. Books being the prime medium of transmission of education and learning, have always been exempt from all taxes — VAT, octroi duty and other taxes etc. Even books in other parts of the world, are allowed into the country without any duty and are also imported at zero-duty/tariff.

As and when the country transforms itself into a ‘knowledge society’, education and books play a significant role in transformation and is considered key driver to speed up the changes. The current tax- free status of books will assume even greater importance in hastening universalisation of education. India has become a knowledge-based economy utilising its intellectual
capital in the international arena. The growth of Indian economy and foreign exchange earnings due to knowledge and information explosion are now universally acknowledged. The current tax relief for books has been one of the key drivers of this growth. Universalisation of education by increasing Access to tools like books or sustenance in providing further impetus to the informational economy can be carried forward by adopting liberal tax policy in respect of aids in education and dissemination of knowledge.

The Federation of Indian Publishers has sent representations to the Empowered Committee of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, various officials of the Thirteenth Finance Commission and 680 Members of Parliament both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha requesting for retention of formal education services like books, journals, magazines and newspapers available in printed form, CD-ROMs, and e-books in digital format available both online through Internet or offline, containing any work of art or literature or science or technology or any field of knowledge and educational nature, other than entertainment, as these require to be comprehensively covered, under the exempted list under both Central GST and State GST.

At our request, the International Publishers Association (IPA) had also sent a Memorandum to the Empowered Committee recommending that books, e-books, CD-ROMs may be brought under the exempted or negative list in the GST regime. Dr. Satyanarayan Jatiya, MP (RS), had raised a Starred Question in this regard on the floor of the House. The Finance Minister had responded in writing acknowledging having received a representation from FIP and confirming that the subject matter would be taken up by the GST Council. Shri Bhubaneswar Kalita, MP (RS), Chairman, Committee on Petitions in Rajya Sabha had also forwarded our representation to the Finance Minister asking him to look into our grievances.

Shri Ashwini Kumar, MP (LS), said in his letter to the Finance Minister that the books were pre-requisite for the development and growth of the nation particularly in the field of knowledge and literacy, and recommended remedial action. Smt. Jaya Bachchan, Member of Parliament (RS), acknowledging our representation sent us a copy of reply which she had received from the Hon’ble Finance Minister on our representation. Shri Satyanarayan Mohanty, Education Secretary, to whom we had sent representation on GST through NBT had also forwarded the same with his recommendation to Shri Shaktikanta Das, Revenue Secretary, to keep the books in the negative list of GST.

The Federation had sent a Memorandum to Ministry of HRD for the organization of New Delhi World Book Fair biennially instead of annually The National Book Trust, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, entrusted with the task of spreading literacy and book culture has been organizing New Delhi World Book Fair since 1972. Earlier, this nine day event was held once in two years but, since 2013 it is being held annually. Since it is a prestigious national, international event, it is organized on a massive scale, and the expenditure and time incurred by NBT is also quite enormous. There is also another Book Fair, not of the scale as NBT’s World Book Fair, organized by India Trade Promotion Organisation in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Publishers every year since 1995 in New Delhi only and at the same place in Pragati Maidan.

Both these Fairs are major events for the Indian publishing industry, but sustaining them effectively every year is becoming quite difficult for the publishing industry to manage. International publishers, too, find it difficult to devote their full energy every year for nine days for the New Delhi World Book Fair as nowhere in the world, International book fairs are held for nine days. It is submitted that, to keep the interest of all the stake holders intact,

(a) NBT be asked to switch over to holding its New Delhi World Book Fair biennially instead of annually as was being done earlier;

(b) On every alternate year NBT be asked to hold National Book Fair on sufficient large scale in any of the major cities of India by rotation so that book culture is promoted all over India;

Moreover, National Book Fair would be beneficial for the Indian language publishers too, as they would be able to showcase their publications effectively in major cities of India; and for NBT also, more resources and time would be at its disposal to perform more activities for book promotion and Copyright awareness.

ISBN Number
The Federation of Indian Publishers received numerous complaints from the member-publishers across the country that they had been experiencing insurmountable difficulties in getting ISBN Number from the Copyright Division of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. They informed us that they had been put off on one pretext or the other.
They had also been asked to deliver them a copy of the new published book for each ISBN number. Shri N.E. Manohar, Managing Partner, Poorna Publications, Kerala also complained to Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation and a copy endorsed to us that they had been experiencing difficulty in getting ISBN Number.

The Federation of Indian Publishers sent a Memorandum to the Ministry of Human Resource Developmednt and urged them to issue ISBN numbers to publishers without hassle after they had submitted documents as mentioned in the application form. We also informed the Ministry that our publishers are stuck up with print ready manuscripts and were handicapped to order printing new books. A delegation of some senior members had a meeting with Shri Shashi Prakash Goyal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development on 4 February 2016 and informed about the difficulties experienced by our member-publishers for non-issuance of ISBN Number. At our strenuous efforts and initiative, the Ministry took expeditious steps and ISBN portal was launched by Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, Hon’ble Minister of Human Resource Development on 7 April 2016 for online issuance of ISBN numbers through internet.

Memorandum to Post Office
The Federation of Indian Publishers received numerous complaints from member-publishers against local post offices about the non-delivery of book packets in time and other related issues. A delegation of senior members of the Federation had a meeting with Shri Abhishek Singh, Director, Postal Services and submitted him representation for redressal of the following issues/problems faced by the publishing industry:

(a) Delayed delivery of registered Book post packets and practically non existent tracking mechanisms.
(b) Insistence by local post office for keeping one side of the Book Post packet open with the result books get spoiled in transit.
(c) Refusal to allow educational CDs which are bundled with the book in the book Post packets.
(d) Insistence by the local post offices to cover the book parcels by cloth (Registered but not Insured) compulsorily.
(e) Difference in calculation of charges as per the standards of the Department of Posts and actual calculation by the staff, while posting letters for foreign countries.
(f) Non issuance of an export certificate (PP form) towards the Registered airmail packets sent overseas through Postal Department. Required for submission to the RBI for cross matching the payment received against these registered airmail packets.

Suggestions for the improvement of academic standard of Higher Education in colleges and universities of India – Memorandum submitted to the Government of India
It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (Government of India) and University Grants Commission are framing policies to improve the academic standard of University Education in India. In the last few years college and university teachers, authors and publishers have felt that the tendency of reading textbooks is going down miserably amongst college and university students. We are afraid, if this tendency is not checked, than very large number of students will be passing the examinations without having any knowledge of the subject and shall be unfit for white collar jobs. It has been observed that instead of reading textbooks, majority of the students prefer to study short notes/ guess papers for the preparation of their examinations.

Some of the suggestions are being mentioned below which we hope may prove useful for the improvement of the overall academic and teaching environment in large number of colleges & universities:

1. Academic session should commence positively by 1st week of August in all the colleges and universities, so that there are more teaching days. It has been noticed that in some universities the session starts as late as October. Even in the month of October/November, due to Dusshera and Diwali holidays, colleges are closed almost for 20-30 days.

2. Last date of admission in colleges & universities should not exceed beyond 1st August. It is suggested that university may declare only 3 merit lists with a gap of 10 days each and after that the colleges may be asked to fill the remaining seats with their own merit criteria.

3. All the results of the university examinations should be declared by 30th June positively, this is only possible when all annual examinations are over by 15th of May.

4. A minimum attendance of 60% should be compulsory for all the students. If needed, surprise inspection in the classrooms may be done by an empowered team of retired college principals & teachers.

5. Quality of education should not suffer for the sake of quantity. A
minimum criteria for the admissions in undergraduate courses especially in Science faculty is very much needed.

6. In all the degree and postgraduate colleges weightage of internal assessment should also be given at the time of final examination. This will motivate the students for regular attendance in class and shall go for thorough studies.

7. The question papers should be framed in such a way that the students be required to attend the classes regularly and shall have to study the complete course.

Administrative Measures etc.

8. At present, there are large vacancies of teachers in colleges, which badly affect the teaching work. The vacancies of teachers in colleges should also be filled on priority and it is to ensure that in the appointment of college teachers, there are no political or otherwise pressures on the selection committee.

9. To ensure the teacher’s responsibility towards the teaching work, ACR (Annual Confidential Report) of the college teachers may be written by the Principal (in consultation with the respective head of the department); ACR of the Principals may be written by the Vice- Chancellor of the affiliating university.

10. In Government aided colleges the Government may also consider the transfer system within the state, particularly of those teachers who are not serious to their duty and are not taking regular classes.

11. To promote Indian authorship, nearly 80% library book- purchase grants should be utilized for the purchase of text-books (soft bound editions) written by Indian authors. This will encourage Indian authorship and shall benefit larger number of U-G and P-G level students. Library grants for purchase of books should be increased on the basis of enrolment of students.