Traffic restrictions, anti-Modi visit clash and Covid-19 crisis largely blamed
Unlike the past, this year’s Amar Ekushey Book Fair has been unique on many grounds, including the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.
However, despite such a great occasion marked on Friday, also the first public holiday after the inauguration of the fair, stalls displaying and selling books and magazines drew a lower number of visitors.
Their much lower-than-expected turnout left publishers and authors disappointed even one of the major national days of the country.
Many attributed the situation to reduced traffic on the roads of Dhaka, marking the Independence Day. In fact, the police on Wednesday issued a traffic advisory to control or restrict vehicular movement on various important and main roads in Dhaka for two days—Friday and Saturday.
The steps were meant to facilitate the movement of invited foreign guests and VVIPs on the occasion of Bangabandhu's birth centenary and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence.
Also, a fierce clash between protesters and police after Jumma prayers in the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque area worsened the situation, which ultimately left those willing to visit the fair panicked.
Moreover, many others blamed the recent upsurge in daily Covid-19 caseload and casualties for the poor attendance at the fair.
Antara Rahman Prity, sales executive of a stall at the Little Mag corner, said: "The crowd is not what was expected. It's because there is no transport in the city as many roads are blocked.
“I think people got scared due to clashes at Paltan. Very few visitors came today and they may live near the fair premises,” she said, adding that this Friday’s turnout was way too lower than that of the last.
The first Friday of the fair, she said, drew a significant number of visitors and bookworms. This year, the fair started on March 18, instead of February 1, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Echoing a similar sentiment, publisher Nazneen Haque Mimi, however, hoped that book-lovers would start thronging there in the evening.
She is optimistic that the turnout debacle will not repeat in the rest of the fair.
Sonia Akter, a sales executive at another stall, pointed out an even stronger cause for the poor turnout: the worsening coronavirus situation.
“We’re standing here all day, selling a very few books,” she said.
According to her, the Covid-19 pandemic stopped people from coming to the fair as expected.