Surprising as it may sound, the government in an order asked the officials concerned across the country to direct all primary schools to buy four books, without going through a proper evaluation process.
This is the first instance in which the ministry concerned directed the schools to buy books by two specific writers.
However, the ministry backtracked on its decision in the face of criticism, as the matter went viral on social media.
The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education issued a notice on July 7 signed by Joint Secretary Khan Md Nurul Amin, also director at the Policy and Operation Division, asking the concerned officials at all levels across the country to direct all primary schools to buy four books, written by Mowshumi Mou and Sushanto Sarker.
The names of the books are: Ramchagoler Pathshala (School of the Goats), "Bangla Chere Bhag" (Quit Bangla), "Jagoran Ashbei" (Awakening will definitely come) written by Mowshumi Mou; and "Osamprodayik Bangabandhu Samprodayik Bangladesh" (Non-communal Bangabandhu Communal Bangladesh) written by Sushanto Sarker.
Genius Publications and Pearl Publications published the books, the former publishing the three books written by Mowshumi Mou, while the latter publishing the book written by Sushanto Sarker.
The notice issued by the ministry drew criticism from different quarters, forcing the ministry to withdraw it on September 13.
Ministry Sources said Mowshumi Mou manipulated the top officials at the ministry with an aim to sell 5.35 lakh copies of books written by her and Sushanto Sarker.
The books were to be sold in a package. And the price of the package, consisting the four books, was set at Tk1,570.
There are 133,901 public and private primary schools in the country. According to the directive of the ministry, each school was supposed to buy two packages of books, meaning that the total cost for buying these books would have been Tk42.4 crore.
A ministry official, on condition of anonymity, told The Business Standard that Mowshumi has good relations with some top officials at the ministry.
Ministry Secretary Md Akram-al-Hossain told The Business Standard that he did not know anything about the notice.
Dr AFM Manzur Kadir, the director general at the Directorate of Primary Education, also told the same.
"I ordered the concerned officials to cancel the directive, after the issue came to my notice," he said.
But Nurul Amin, one of the directors at the ministry, who signed the notice, said he issued the notice as per order of Manzur Kadir. "The ministry secretary also knew the matter," he said.
When asked whether there was any deal between the ministry and the two writers, he said, "We did not make any deal with them."
The Business Standard could not reach Mowshumi Mou for her version.
Sushanto Sarker, the other writer, alleged that the outcry is the result of conspiracy of some poets and writers against him and Mowshumi Mou.
He said many schools bought their books, but declined to elaborate on this.
Poet Nirmolendu Goon was astonished after hearing about the incident. He said, "It is very insulting for the country's poets and writers." "I have been writing for a long time, but never thought of selling my books off with the help of the ministry."