Katju asks publishers to scout for best literary talents

Press council Chairman Markandey Katju today said the country desperately needs writers who could enlighten people about social problems and asked leading publishers to scout for the best literary talents.

Addressing Federation of Indian Publishers here, Katju cited lack of good literature in the country today and said Indians are thirsty for it.

"Where is the Prem Chand of today? Where is the Sharat Chandra Chattopadyay of today? Where is the Charles Dickens of today? Where is the Upton Sinclair of today? Where is the Sinclair Lewis of today? Where is the Bernard Shaw of today?," he asked.

He said India is passing through very difficult times and great writers are required to enlighten the people about the problems they are facing.

Katju said while reading John Steinbeck's novel, 'The Grapes of Wrath' on the American Depression he was reminded of what India witnessed in the last 20 years.

"The greatest agrarian crises that the country has been facing. Millions of farmers have lost their livelihood and have fled to cities for jobs which are not there. Industrial production is declining," the former Supreme Court judge said.

He said people migrating to cities often end up becoming domestic workers, street hawkers, criminals or prostitutes but writers highlighting their plight are not there.

Talents like that of Hugo, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, great French, German and Russian writers were desperately required in India today, he said.

"People are looking for such greatness. It is for you publishers to go and find them. Not that they (great writers) are absent, may be they are living in the rural areas," he said.

"In the tribal areas where the tribals are living. the Bhils, the Gonds and Santhals, I am sure there will be great literary talent there," he added.

"Among the working class, you must go where the vast majority of our people live and explore the talent there and encourage and help them to come up as great  writers," Katju said citing the instance of Maxim Gorky who rose from a humble background to become one of the greatest writers of Russia.

Sounding a note of caution that things could go wrong if money became the sole pursuit of publishers, he said they could earn even while serving the society.

"You can have great writers like Prem Chand and Sharat Chandra provided entertainment, whose novels and stories sold in hundreds and thousands of copies. The publishers also made money and at the same time they educated the people," he said.

"Today 80 per cent of our people live in such poverty. 47 farmers are committing suicide every day on an average for the last fifteen years. World record of sucides... still going on," Katju said and added that 47 per cent of children were malnourished which is more than the average in the poorest of countries.

"Are we not sitting on the top of a volcano. I am sure that you people are responsible people and will publish literature dealing with these problems," the Press Council Chairman said.

He said books create the feeling among reading public that things are wrong and something should be done about it.

Katju also said that reading habit especially among the young was declining and people were watching more TV.

"Our younger generation has become largely deculturalised. I do not say all of them but a large number of them. They don't know about our culture, they don't know Sanskrit, they don't know Urdu our great cultural languages," Katju said.

The lack of awareness about the country's culture in people means there is a defect in their education, Katju said.

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