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With new academic session in most city schools starting from Monday, the prices of course books of all grades have increased by 30 to 35 per cent over the last year with parents swarming bookstalls and stationery outlets in huge numbers.
Shopkeepers said that the private publishers, for the last two years, hiking book prices, some even increased the cost thrice in a year. ‘There seems to be no government oversight on the sector that is said to be enormously huge.
Besides books, manufacturers of copies have also raised the cost of their items.
Some market sources told Dawn that many in copies manufacturing businesses were cheating their clients. ‘Those who opted not to raise the price to beat the competition have actually reduced the number of pages,‘ an insider said.
Traders said the price of copies has risen by merely one rupee over the last year but the number of papers reduced considerably. For example, they said a copy of 160 pages, actually contains only 144 pages. Same tactics are used in making registers, also. However, retailers usually make windfalls on copies and registers since there are no price tags attached to these.
They said that the price of books (Sind Text Book Board) has also become dearer by at least five to 10 per cent.
There is also a big price difference between copies available in the market and those being provided with courses at designated shops of schools with the name of school printed on copies. ‘If we charge a copy containing 160 pages for Rs35-40 then the same is available for Rs50-60 when buying the course from specific outlets with school‘s name printed on it,‘ shopkeepers said.
An owner of a bookstall at the Urdu Bazar Nazimabad, Babar Shaikh said that around 15 to 20 parents had pleaded with him, either to provide textbook courses of their wards on instalments or wait for a few months for payments in full. The matter of the fact is the rising cost of living.
He said that there was price difference in books depending on the standard of a school. Students of grade 1 to 5 at a particular school may be paying between Rs850-1000 while the course of same grades at other schools may cost parents Rs1800-2300.
The bookstall owner further said that the course for grades 6 to 8 in schools of an average locality may cost Rs1900-2200 while the same course in elite schools will charge Rs2600-Rs3100.
The stationery expenses for a child studying in Montessori to KG II are from Rs800-1200 while for grade I to VIII it ranges between Rs300-500.
He said that there were no immediate threats of shortage of books but nothing can be predicted even for next month. Chairman Pakistan Publishers and Booksellers Association Aziz Khalid has said that the price of books had risen by 30-35 per cent in the last one year as publishers were facing problems due to rising printing cost, shortage of paper and high cost of imported paper. Due to shortage of paper many books are in short supply, he claimed.
He said the ream of an average off-set paper of 68 grams was now priced at Rs1500 which was available for Rs1300 in the second week of this month. Last year, it was valued at Rs800-900. The price of imported off-set paper of same quality can be purchased for Rs2200-2300.
The government while neglecting the core education sector is keen on providing relief in duties and incentives to other sectors, he said in reference to tax amnesty schemes the government had offered to owners of smuggled and non-duty paid vehicles.
Only four paper manufacturers in the country have failed in meeting the country‘s paper requirement, perhaps because of high customs duty on import of paper.
The government is urged to reduce import duty on paper so that the price of books could be reduced, he said.
The ordeal of parents does not end here as they will have to brave increased and accumulated school fees and appreciated cost of uniforms, school shoes, bags, etc.