Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday inaugurated the Amar Ekushey Book Fair-2021, a yearly event of booklovers and publishers, in the capital.

The Prime Minister opened the book fair, joining its inaugural ceremony at the Bangla Academy virtually from her official residence Ganobhaban in the afternoon.

The fair, which was postponed during its traditional month of February amid the coronavirus pandemic, began at the Bangla Academy premises and the adjacent venue at Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital.

This year's fair has been dedicated to the memories of the martyrs of 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. The main theme of the 2021 fair is "Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Golden Jubilee of Independence".

The Prime Minister unveiled the cover of 'New China 1952', the official English version of 'Amar Dekha Noya Chin' written by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and published by Bangla Academy.

She distributed the Bangla Academy Literary Award 2020 among its recipients at the inaugural ceremony.

On behalf of the Prime Minister, State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid handed over the awards to the recipients.

Considering the Covid-19 social-distancing requirements, the land earmarked for this year's fair has been expanded to 15, 00,000 sq ft. A total of 834 units have been allocated to 540 organisations this year.

This year, the 'Shishu Prohor' has been called off while the children's corner shifted to Suhrawardy Udyan. The 'Little Mag Corner' has also been shifted to the Suhrawardy Udyan.

The authorities have allotted 154 units of the Bangla Academy ground to 107 organisations and 680 units of the Suhrawardy Udyan to 433 organisations for the 2021 fair.

Publishers from all over the country are participating in the fair with a wide variety of books, while Bangla Academy is exhibiting 115 newly-printed and reprinted books at this year's fair. There are 33 pavilions at the fair.

Hand sanitisation booths are set at all the entrances for the visitors, who must have to be masked up all the time during their presence at the fair.

Seminars will be held at the main stage of the fair venue at 4:00pm every day from 19 March to 14 April, followed by cultural events.

To prevent the hassle of the fair-goers due to possible inclement weather, there are four emergency shelters at the Suhrawardy Udyan.

The number of volunteers and necessary amenities has been increased this year to ensure adequate support for the booklovers.

Earlier, the 2021 fair had been postponed to avoid the risks of Covid-19 infections. Talks were also there to hold this year's fair virtually.

Alongside all the necessary health precautions, there are strict security arrangements in and around the venue to prevent any unpleasant incidents.

The month-long book fair is arranged every year in February commemorating the sacrifices of those who laid down their lives on 21 February 1952 for establishing Bangla as the mother tongue.

The traditional Amar Ekushey Book Fair began informally in 1972 at the Bangla Academy premises. However, the academy officially took the responsibility to arrange the fair regularly -- every year since 1978.

It was then named as 'Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela' and a guideline was laid out in this regard in 1984.

The fair will remain open from 3:00pm to 9:00pm on weekdays, from 11:00am to 9:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays, from 8:00am to 9:00pm till April.

Bangla Academy Literary Award

The awardees are actress Ferdousi Mazumder (autobiography), poet Muhammad Samad (poetry), Imtiaj Shamim (literary fiction), Begum Akhtar Kamal (essay/research), Suresh Ranjan Basak (translation), Rabiul Alam (drama), Anjir Liton (children's literature), Sahida Begum (research on Liberation War), Aparesh Bandhopaddhaya (science fiction) and Muhammad Habibullah Pathan (folklore).

President of Bangla Academy Prof Shamsuzzaman Khan chaired the inaugural event. Cultural Affairs Secretary M Badrul Arefin, Director General Habibullah Sirajee and President of Academic and Creative Publishers' Association of Bangladesh Farid Ahmed spoke on the occasion.

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