West Bengal was recently affected by one of the worst cyclones in its history. A lot of images of the destruction did rounds on various social media platforms. One such heart-breaking image was of Kolkata’s Boi Para, a.k.a, College Street. You can check out more about this in our article here.
Recently, Malavika Banerjee, director of the Kolkata Literary Meet thought of using some KLM money and crowdfunding to help College Street get back on its feet. Then she found Indrani Roy Mitra, joint managing director of the 87-year-old College Street publisher Mitra & Ghosh, already had a fund-raiser on crowdfunding site Milaap. She joined hands with her to amplify the effort, using her lit meet Rolodex.
Roy Mitra was devastated to see people shoveling up piles of books from the slush. Their own godown suffered losses too but, she says: “We have insurance, we can manage. Some book traders told me they lost goods worth ₹20,000. They make that much in a whole year.” The fund, she says, is not for bigger publishers like her. It’s for the smaller booksellers, buffeted by the double whammy of the COVID-19 lockdown and Amphan.
Many booksellers who have small shops in College Street live in smaller towns outside Kolkata. They used to come to work on local trains. When the trains stopped, they just locked the stores hoping that everything would get back to normal when the lockdown opened. But they found their livelihoods destroyed. Some stalls were on wheels. The booksellers did not even know where the cyclone had tossed them.
The Milaap fund-raiser is not the only one. The Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which estimates losses of more than ₹5 crores, has launched its own relief fund. As a registered organization with hundreds of booksellers and publishers, the guild, which also organizes the Kolkata Book Fair, wants to identify those in the greatest need. It has put in ₹5 lakh from its own funds. A student group at Presidency University has pledged to rebuild 100 stalls. A group from Burdwan is buying back damaged books.