Army has imprint on me, but my role in NBT is to facilitate experts: Lieutenant Colonel Yuvraj Malik

Ankita Dwivedi Johri

Lt Col Yuvraj Malik joined the Centre on deputation from the Indian Army on January 8. Ankita Dwivedi Johri

Scaling up the World Book Fair with “special focus on authors below 15 years of age” to involving Nobel laureates, preparing to “showcase India’s contribution to the world” when the country celebrates 75 years of Independence in 2022, to facilitating the work of editors and experts in the organisation. These are some of the plans of Lieutenant Colonel Yuvraj Malik, the new Director of National Book Trust (NBT) who joined the Centre on deputation from the Indian Army on January 8.

“We have just completed a review of the World Book Fair (January 4-12, 2020). In the future, we will try to scale things up. There will be more participation from foreign delegations. Specifically, we will give more impetus to authors below 15 years of age and children,” says Malik, adding that his team will focus on “better categorisation” of stalls and promoting affordable book reading.

“Say a man is interested in award-winning books, there will be a section for that. There will be a section for religious and spiritual books... People have also asked for a military section, so we will try to put up a corner for that. University publications can be put in one section. We will try to have a category system so that people can get more in less time,” he says.

Lt Col Malik’s appointment comes nearly a year after Sahitya Akademi-awardee writer Rita Chowdhury stepped down from the post. Her resignation was linked to anger over the CAA before it was passed in Parliament, after she put up a Facebook post that said, “I am Assamese (Moi Axomiya)”.
“I am not privy to it, and I don’t want to comment on it,” says Malik on his predecessor’s resignation.

He also dismisses criticism over the government choosing an Army officer over a candidate from the literary world. “It’s a very fair process, it is an open selection process. I am not sure of the data, but about 100 people must have applied, of which 12 were Army officers. Among those 100, I am the fortunate one to be here and serve the country in this way... It’s a matter of delivery, who can deliver. It’s not confined to one domain, no job is. If you can deliver and produce results, nothing like it,” he says, adding, “I have been a keen reader... it’s my passion. That has brought me to this world. I am happy to be in the intellectual world after serving in the field, in the Valley, in very diversified profiles.”

As an officer in the Army, Malik has served as a senior instructor at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, in Africa as part of the United Nations mission, and in the Operations department in the Home Ministry. He was also the Aides-de-Camp to the Governor of J&K and has been posted in the Valley as a Lieutenant Captain.

While he says the Army “has an imprint on me”, he underlines that his role in the NBT is to “facilitate experts”. “We have a huge team of editors, they are experts in their fields. There are various wings — administration, production, distribution, supply chain... My job is to facilitate them in terms of direction and keep everything on one platform as per the vision of the Government of India and the Ministry of Human Resource Development,” he says.

Established in 1957, the NBT is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development. In the last financial year, NBT sold about 2.5 crore books and counts Jorasanko House and Our Parliament among its bestsellers.
“We are doing very well in terms of sales. We have a huge readers’ clubs — about 75,000 schools are our members. Now our books are also part of school curriculum through the government’s Samagra Shiksha programme, for which funds come from the GoI,” he says, adding that he will return to his job in the Army when his five-year term ends.