Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday inaugurated the month-long Amar Ekushey Book Fair-2023, the annual event of booklovers and publishers, in the capital.

The premier opened the country's biggest book fair in the afternoon, joining its inaugural ceremony in person on the Bangla Academy premise after a gap of three years induced by Covid-19 pandemic.

The fair is being held on the Academy premises and its adjoining Suhrawardy Udyan with the theme "Poro Boi, Goro Desh-Bangabandhu'r Bangladesh" (Read Books, Build the Country as Bangladesh dreamt by Bangabandhu).

Addressing the opening ceremony, the prime minister stressed the need for translation of Bengali literary works in foreign languages to reach out to the non-Bengali readers as well as for creation of digital versions of books to reach the larger readers.

She said 21st February got recognition as the international mother language day. So, a large responsibility was bestowed upon Bangladesh to make Bengali language familiar to the world arena in a massive way, she said.

"If we want to do it, we need to translate and put emphasis on the translation of our literary works," said Hasina.

She said all the books of Bengali literature, which would be published, should be translated into different languages, not only one or two books in a year.

Hasina said Bangla Academy and International Mother Language Institute can jointly take the initiative for the translation of Bengali literary works.

Noting that the Father of the Nation once arranged an international literature fair, she asked Bangla Academy to take such initiatives for hosting international fair on its premise.

The PM thanked Bangla Academy for arrangement of book fairs in the districts saying that there is now scope and facilities to arrange such events even in upazila level as there are cultural academies in every area.

"Our young generation will stay away from drugs, terrorism and militancy as much as we can attract them into our literature and cultural exercises. Then they would get scope to lead normal life and flourish their talents through the practice of literature," she said.

She said the scope for sports, practices of literature and culture should be taken to even the grassroots level of the country for the grooming of the young generations.

Mentioning that now it is digital era and her government made the country as digital Bangladesh, the PM said it is very essential to make digital versions including audio versions of books to reach out to larger readers.

Though reading the digital version of a book doesn't give the real satisfaction, such versions should be created to create scopes for wider readers, she said.

The book fair will remain open for the visitors from 3 pm to 9 pm on working days and 11:00 am to 9 pm on the holidays. However, the visitors can enter the fair on International Mother Language Day at 8am, and all entrance points will be closed after 8.30pm every day.

A total of 901 stalls have been allocated to 601 organisations for this year's book fair, compared to 776 stalls to 534 organisations last year.

Of these, 165 stalls have been allocated to 112 organizations on the Bangla Academy premises, the rest 736 stalls to 489 organizations at Suhrawardy Udyan. Moreover, a total of 38 pavilions have been allocated this year.

All the 489 stalls inside Suhrawardi Udyan have been set up in a way so that a visitor can see the whole fairground from any corner.

The temple gate of the Suhrawardi Udyan is the main entrance, which is located opposite the Bangla Academy. Also, there are three more entrances and exits nearby the Teacher-Student Center (TSC), Doyel Chattar and the Institution of Engineers Bangladesh (IEB).

The entire fair zone will be closely monitored by more than 300 CCTV cameras.

At the opening ceremony, the prime minister distributed the Bangla Academy Sahitya Puroshkar-2022 (Bangla Academy Literary Award 2022) among its recipients.

She handed over the award to the 15 recipients under 11 categories. Each awardee received a cheque for award money, a crest and a certificate.

Faruk Mahmud and Tarik Sujat received the award for poetry, while Taposh Mojumdar and Parvez Hossain for novels, Masuduzzaman for essays/research and Alam Khorshed for translation.

The other awardees are Milan Kanti Dey and Farid Ahmad Dulal for drama, Druba Esh for juvenile literature, Muhammad Shamsul Haque for research on the Liberation War, Subhash Singha Roy for research on Bangabandhu, Mokarram Hossain for science/science fiction/environmental science, Iktiar Chowdhury for biography and travelogue and Professor Abdul Khaleq and Professor Mohammad Abdul Jalil for folklore.

The Bangla Academy Sahitya Puroshkar is given in recognition of creativity and talents in advancement and overall contributions to the field of Bengali language and literature.

The Prime Minister unveiled the cover of seven new books published by Bangla Academy. The books include Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Rachonaboli Volume-I edited by Sheikh Hasina, Amar Jibanniti Amar Rajniti composed by Abdul Hamid, Asamapta Ajmajibani Path Bislashan, Karagarer Rojnamcha Path Bislashan and Amar Dekha Nayachin Path Bislashan composed by Mohammad Nurul Huda.

After the inauguration of the fair, Sheikh Hasina visited different stalls there.

The book fair is arranged every year in February commemorating the sacrifices of language heroes who laid down their lives on February 21, 1952, for establishing Bangla as an official language of the then-Pakistan along with Urdu. Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan until its liberation in 1971.

But the traditional dates of the fair got shifted for the past two editions due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The traditional Amar Ekushey Book Fair had started informally in 1972 on the Bangla Academy premises and then in 1978 the academy officially took the responsibility of arranging the fair every year.

Bangabandhu's youngest daughter Sheikh Rehana was present in the inaugural ceremony presided over by Bangla Academy President novelist Selina Hossain.

State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, Cultural Affairs Secretary Md Abul Monsur, Bangla Academy Director General poet Nurul Huda and president of Bangladesh Book Publishers and Sellers Association Arif Hossain Choton spoke on the occasion.

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