Indian printers of Bangladesh textbooks accused of graft


Dhaka : With just over a week left for the school academic session to begin in Bangladesh, Indian printers have supplied less than half of the primary school textbooks assigned to them and officials have accused them of bribery while offering tenders.

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The printers have caused delays in supply and have sent only 43 percent of the books under their contract.

This delay may prevent the Bangladesh government from distributing the textbooks to the primary school children.

A local printer, who was not named by the New Age newspaper, alleged that two of the three Indian parties that won the international bids were not printers and had paid bribes to officials.

Another local printer said: “They (Indian companies) do not have the capacity to print such large amount of books but some (Bangladeshi) officials helped them to win the tenders for bribes.”

Tofael Khan, president of the Bangladesh Textbook Printing and Marketing Association, made the same allegation to the newspaper.

“Two out of three companies who got the international tender are not printers. The government should investigate how they won the tender,” Khan said.

“The Indian companies got many benefits for printing the textbooks, including getting the payment in advance. The government should find out why they cannot distribute the textbooks in time.”

The authorities attributed the delay to traffic jams that were halting the trucks carrying the books.

“What can we do if the trucks carrying textbooks are stuck in a traffic jam?” said National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) chairman Mostafa Kamaluddin.

There are nine days left before the new academic year begins, NCTB officials said.

As per the contracts, the companies printing the primary textbooks were supposed to deliver the books between Oct 30 and Nov 15.

The government later decided that all textbooks would be distributed to sub-district levels by Dec 21.

The Indian companies missed the second deadline while local companies delivered most of the books they printed.

This year the government called an international tender for printing the textbooks of classes I, II and III to ensure timely distribution of books to the students, and three Indian companies got the lion’s share of the deals.

“As the situation suggests, 40 or 50 percent students of classes I and II may not get all the textbooks on the first day of the new academic year,” Khan said.

Ratan Siddique, NCTB’s special official for distribution of textbooks, admitted the delay by the Indian companies, but said: “They are on the way. About 87 trucks carrying the books have crossed the border into Bangladesh and will reach us shortly.”

He said the NCTB has already received 1.98 crore of the 2.98 crore textbooks printed in India.