A combination of factors appears to have played a part – beginning with the reduction in textbook production by publishers during the pandemic and compounded by the cascading effect of rising crude oil prices on the paper industry and an interruption in the supply of printing chemicals due to the Russo-Ukrainian War.
Publishers, who had barely printed textbooks in bulk when lessons moved online, are now struggling to keep up with the sudden surge in orders from schools. Parents, therefore, are harassed a lot. “My two daughters in grades 2 and 6 are back in offline education mode after almost two years. The session started over a week ago, but my daughters don’t have textbooks yet. I visited almost every store in town and even went to Noida but to no avail,” said Mukesh Kumar, a resident of Sector 43.
As queues in front of bookstores in Sadar Bazar grow longer, dealers are giving customers a scheduled waiting period. The shortage, they said, is mostly for grades 1 to 8 textbooks. “There had been virtually no orders for the past two years. Today, the demand has increased by 30 to 40%. The government has also issued a notification that state schools can only use NCERT books. Distributors were not ready for this. We will need time until the end of this month to bridge this gap between demand and supply,” said Gulshan Adhlaka of Adlakha Stationery Mart, Sector 11.
Publishers said they typically start receiving orders from schools nearly five to six months before an academic session. But this time, the opening of schools was shrouded in uncertainty. “So we had no window to publish and release the books to market. We don’t see the situation improving until at least the end of May,” said a Karnal-based book publisher.
Besides the increase in demand, distributors blamed the rise in crude oil prices. Paper prices have also risen from less than 60 rupees per kg last year to nearly 100 rupees in March. And since the production of books and other such materials had declined during the lockdown, paper recycling was almost negligible over the past two years. “The paper industry has been reeling from losses for two years now,” said Manoj Kumar of Hisar-based Haryana Paper Industries. The company is a bulk producer and supplier of Laptops in Haryana and Delhi-NCR.
But it’s not just the books. There is also a shortage of new uniforms on the market. “My daughter was so excited to be able to wear a new uniform. But the stores are running out of dresses and say the schools didn’t give them enough orders in time. My daughter now refuses to go to school without her new uniform said Neelam Singh, mother of a six-year-old girl.