Amar Ekushey Boi Mela 2022 begins Tuesday for 14 days, from 15 February to 28 February, dispelling speculations over whether it will take place at all amid the third wave of Covid pandemic.
The Bangla Academy authorities may even extend the Boi Mela if the Covid-19 pandemic situation improves.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is to inaugurate the fair in a virtual event from Ganabhaban at 3:00 pm on Tuesday.
State Minister for Cultural Affairs, KM Khalid said this at a Bangla Academy press conference.
"We are going to start the Boi Mela at the direction of PM Sheikh Hasina and will be able to extend the mela days if the Covid-19 pandemic situation improves," he said.
The ministry is hopeful the duration can be extended given that the number of infections is trending down, but is waiting for the PM's instruction on the matter, he said.
"We were unsure of having the book fair this year due to the pandemic, but the PM gave the green signal to open the fair, reducing the duration of the fair to two weeks."
This year, the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela will commemorate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, the 70 years of the 1952 Language Movement, and the 50th anniversary of the drafting of the country's first Constitution.
Visitors will be allowed to visit the venue from 2 pm to 9 pm every day. The gates will open at 11 am on holidays, but close at 9pm every day.
Only on 21 February, visitors will be allowed to enter at 8am and entrance will be restricted after 8:30 pm.
An attractive and safe corner for children will also be set up at the fair and a task force will remain vigilant.
People working at the fair – publishers, stall owners and salespersons – will not be allowed on the mela premises if they are not vaccinated. They have been asked to get their Covid-19 vaccine doses as soon as possible.
The authorities have also requested booklovers to carry their Covid-19 vaccination cards and follow health guidelines when visiting the Boi Mela.
No one will be allowed to enter the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela premises without wearing masks to prevent infections.
Poet Mohammad Nurul Huda, director general (DG) of Bangla Academy, said, "We had many limitations but finally the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela 2022 opens Tuesday. I think publishers will benefit financially this year," he added.
The month-long fair, which usually begins on 1 February, was postponed last year to avoid the risk of Covid-19 transmissions. The fair eventually began on 18 March at the Bangla Academy premises and an adjacent venue at the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan.
Nevertheless, publishers incurred huge losses due to poor sales last year.
Bangla Academy sources said the total space for the boi mela on the Bangla Academy premises and Suhrawardy Udyan this year will be around 7 lakh square feet. As many as 102 publishing houses were allocated stalls on the Bangla Academy premises, and 432 in Suhrawardy Udyan.
Bangla Academy published and reprinted 107 books this year. The Bangla Academy and other publishing houses will sell books at a 25% discount.
Publishers for extending mela till 17 March
Book publishers and sellers' associations have written to the Bangla Academy wanting the book fair to be extended till March 17, the birthday of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
They urged the Academy to consider their wish, saying the publishers incurred losses at the last fair and business overall in the sector has been down during the long drawn pandemic.
If the fair is only for two weeks, they will incur further losses, the publishers say.