KM Khalid, the state minister for cultural affairs, said they will send a proposal to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on beginning the fair on Feb 20, or Mar 7 or Mar 17.
“Because we want to end the fair before Ramadan begins on Apr 12,” he said at a press conference on Sunday after meeting with the organisers of the fair – Bangla Academy and Gyan O Srijanshil Prokashok Samiti or the Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh.
They met to discuss ways to hold the fair once the outbreak eases and the vaccination begins.
It was decided that the fair will not be held virtually, but in person as usual.
Khalid said they had thought about holding the fair from Feb 1 like every year, but the situation is not allowing them to do so.
But he added that there will still be uncertainties over the fair if the situation does not improve.
“COVID has come under control a bit. We hope the situation will improve further and we'll be able to organise the fair by adhering to the health rules,” the state minster said.
The publishers called for swift launch of the fair considering rains and Ramadan ahead.
“It depends on the prime minister’s permission,” said Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Shirajee, when asked whether the fair can be held from Feb 20, a day before the Language Martyrs Day.
Farid Ahmed, president of the publishers’ association, said they agreed to hold the fair in March, but it must be held in the presence of the people.
The academy last month appealed to the cultural affairs ministry to suspend the book fair this time considering the pandemic situation.
However, the publishers’ association rejected the proposal, saying that they wanted to arrange the fair in the same way as every year under the open sky.
Earlier, the cultural affairs ministry and the health ministry exchanged letters on the issue. The health ministry recommended organising the fair virtually, an official said. But the publishers dismissed the idea out of hand.
The fair has its roots back to the days when Chittaranjan Saha, the owner of Muktodhara Prokashoni, began selling books by setting up a shop on a piece of cloth at the gate of the academy during the Feb 21 Language Martyrs Day event in 1972. Many others joined him in 1977.
Ashraf Siddiqui, the then DG of the academy, involved it with the fair the following year. After another year, Bangladesh Book Sellers and Publishers Association joined the fair.
In 1983, during the term of DG Quazi Muhammad Manjoor-E-Mawla, the academy took the initiative to organise the Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela, but did not go ahead with the plan. Finally, the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela began at the academy premises in 1984.
Now, the month-long fair has become an integral part of Bengali culture.
Last year, the fair was delayed by a day due to the city corporation elections in Dhaka.
It ended without any hindrance as Bangladesh did not report any confirmed coronavirus cases at the time after the pandemic began in China in late 2019.