Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday called upon the Bangla Academy and local administration to take measures for increasing cultural and literary activities at the district level and expanding the tenure of the Amar Ekushey Book Fair till March 17, the birthday of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
"Cultural and literary practices, including cultural programmes and discussions on literature, were held at the district and upazila levels which have decreased nowadays. We have to reintroduce the practices and increase our cultural programmes to further strengthen our existence," she said.
While opening the Amar Ekushey Book Fair 2022 virtually as the chief guest from her official Ganabhaban residence, she said that the Bangla Academy could take initiatives to increase cultural and literary activities at the district level.
The prime minister continued that many talented poets, artistes, litterateurs and cultural activists would come to the light from different regions of Bangladesh if the practices could be increased.
"Increased cultural and literary practices will help blossom talents alongside meeting up the psychological demand," she said.
The prime minister opined that the increased cultural practices would keep the young generation away from wrongdoings and increase their interest in Bangladesh, Bengali Language, Bengali literature and Bengali culture.
The prime minister said that the Shilpakala Academy has been arranging the cultural programmes up to the upazila level, she said that Bangla Academy and the local administration should take measures to increase cultural and literary practices at the district level.
Sheikh Hasina said the duration of the fair should be extended till 17 March, the birthday of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as the demand to this end from the publishers has come across.
"As this time we have started the fair in delay, 15 February, I think we can continue it for a full month," she said.
The premier said that she alone could not take the decision, urging the Bangla Academy, organisers of the book fair, to consider how much they can do in this regard.
The fair, a yearly event of booklovers and publishers, began yesterday on the Bangla Academy premises and adjoining Suhrawardy Udyan with the theme "Birth Centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Golden Jubilee of Country's Independence."
Sheikh Hasina also distributed the Bangla Academy Sahitya Puroshkar-2021 (Bangla Academy Literature Award) at the opening ceremony.
On behalf of the prime minister, State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid handed over the awards to the recipients and spoke at the function as special guest.
Cultural Affairs Secretary Md Abul Mansur spoke on the occasion with Bangla Academy President writer Selina Hossain in the chair.
A one-minute silence was also observed in respect to the Language Movement martyrs.
The book fair will remain open for all from 2 pm to 9 pm on working days and 11:00 am to 9 pm on public holidays with a one-hour intermission for lunch and offering prayers till 28 February.
Alongside all the necessary health precautions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are strict security arrangements in and around the fair venue to prevent any unpleasant incident.
The prime minister said the annual Ekushey Book Fair has turned into a grand gathering of all that included book lovers.
"It (Ekushey Boi Mela) is not only a book festival, but it also has become a gathering of all and turned into a festival of souls," she said referring to her frequent visits to the fair when she was a student.
The prime minister asked all to follow the health protocol strictly while visiting the book fair and take vaccines that included the booster dose to get protected from the lethal virus.