‘Leisure readers count more in NE’

From Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI: Analysis of an official study on reading habits of the Northeastern region has brought out some interesting facts. Its youths read more than their counterparts in the rest of the country and the number of reading youths is more among Muslims than among Christians who pioneered education in the region through the missionaries. Only 25 per cent of youths read books other than textbooks and the proportion of leisure readers is higher in urban India.

Young men and women in Northeastern states read books more often than their counterparts in the rest of the country, a study by the National Book Trust released by the newly appointed Union Minister for Human Resources Development, Dr M M Pallam Raju revealed here on Tuesday. The NE youths read even more than states like developed Maharashtra and once poor Bihar, the study titled “Youth of North-East India: Demographics and Readership,” said.

“Moreover, a relatively higher concentration of Muslim literate youth is noticed in the Northeastern states,” the study said. About one third of the literate youths in the NE region are Muslims followed by only 18 percent Christians, it added.

As many as 67% of literate youth – defined in the study as those between 13 and 35 – in the states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, referred to collectively as the NAGMAMI states read more than just their textbooks, compared to just 25% nationwide. Across the eight Northeastern states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim – 43% of literate youth read more than just textbooks.

These findings are important because they help us decide where we need to focus on going ahead, Raju said while releasing the study.

Even though Assam has a better infrastructure, including libraries, than other Northeastern states, a smaller fraction of the state’s literate youth, which accounts for 39%, reads for leisure in comparison with Mizoram (62%), Manipur (52%) and Nagaland (47%).

The report also found a paradoxical but interesting fact that in the region there are youths from rural areas who are reading more than in urban areas. It also found more literate youths among tribals than non-tribals which is just opposite of what is seen in the rest of the country.

“One of the key takeaways from the survey is that there is no pan-northeastern trend,” said Shashanka Bhide, senior research counselor at the NCAER. “Each state has its own distinct challenges,” he added.

This focused report attempts to give an analytical and detailed account of the reading habits of the literate youth in the Northeastern states and their exposure to different forms of media, and how diverse socio-economic and motivational factors impact their reading habit, Raju said. The reading of ‘leisure or non-text books’ among the literate youth is the special focus of the study, he said.

The Report is a follow-up study of the National Youth Readership Survey (2009-10) assigned to National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) by the NBT under the National Action Plan for the Readership Development among the Youth (NAPRDY) mooted by NBT.

In order to have a better understanding of the status of the Northeastern (NE) states as compared to the rest of country in this sector, the findings are compared with the similar result for one developed state (Maharashtra) and one economically backward state (Bihar), chosen on the basis of their per capita gross domestic product.

This is over and above the comparison of the findings in respect of the NE states with the overall Indian situation, Raju said.