While the book publishing scene is increasingly dominated by big publishers, an important social role has been always filled by small publishers often functioning at the margins. Despite the modest scale of their work, these have made very important contributions from time to time.
When I started working as a freelance journalist about 49 years back, I soon had a strong feeling that in order to write in a comprehensive and satisfying way, apart from writing for newspapers and magazines I needed a small space of my own. Thus was born Social Change Papers, a cottage scale publication effort which in the last four decades has brought out about 400 books and booklets.
This gradually became identified as a publication and distribution place, although a very small and modest one, which could offer very useful books and small, cheaply priced booklets on various aspects of social change including justice and equality, environment protection, social reform and social movements. During crisis periods of various social movements we tried to bring out small booklets which could be helpful to them.
Even at such a big gathering as the World Book Fair it was heartwarming to see that people coming from very remote areas would keep finding our smaller stall and make it a point to visit it. It was also very satisfying to hear comments like this from our visitors—here at last is a stall where we could buy a booklet on an important subject for less than Rs. 5.
On such occassions we also collected books of various other publishers on themes we considered to be the most useful. Our main attraction however continued to be our own publications. While I am the author of over 80 per cent of these books and booklets, other authors and co-authors include Jeremy Seabrook, the famous journalist and author from Britain, Prof. Jagmohan Singh, Chairperson of Shahid Bhagat Singh Committee , Reshma Bharti, Madhu Dogra, and others.
It has always been a struggle to ensure the economic viability and sustainability of this effort, and a large part of the credit should go to the support and encouragement of my wife Madhu , and her firm faith in this effort. As our daughter Reshma Bharti was growing up she volunteered very enthusiastically to help at exhibitions of books and later joined as an author and co-author of about 15 books and booklets, particularly on history and education.
Some of our most important publications are about finding an alternative path of development based on integration of basic concerns of justice, peace and environment protection. Recent books in this category are One Decade to Protect Life and Earth History and Next Century. Another book on this theme written much earlier titled Another Path Exists was well received. Hindi versions of all these books (independent books, not translations) are also available.
Another category of books includes biographies of inspiring persons. Here the emphasis has been more on biographies of inspiring leaders and freedom fighters of India in Hindi. Reshma Bharti, Jagmohan Singh and Madhu Dogra have contributed much to this effort. Apart from freedom fighters, scientists, writers and labour leaders have also been covered in this section.
In the third category we have a lot of reports on various voluntary organizations and constructive activities on environment protection, organic farming, mobilizing weaker sections and workers, people’s movements including women centered movements .
In another section we have several books on food security, eco-friendly farming and broad-based rural development with special focus on rights of the poor (in English as well as in Hindi).
The overall perspective is of justice, peace and environment protection with special focus on the search for alternative paths. A very wide range of issues have been covered. All the titles , including out of print ones are listed. Attempts are made to save a few copies of out of print publications.
These publications (about 400 so far) in English and Hindi have been widely used by people’s movements and others yearning for a society based on justice, peace and environment protection (a special reason for working in Hindi).
I continued to write alongside for other book publishers. With age it became more difficult to us to do the running around for marketing and distribution work and so things slowed down. There were other adverse factors due to recent changes in the country. COVID-19 proved to be a big setback as our colleague who had to come from his village could not make it to workplace for a long time. So we started asking for orders directly at my email address and even though now it takes more time to mail books we still manage to send. However some out of print publications, much in demand, could not be reprinted in the middle of all the problems and lack of funds. Those interested in this small effort or requiring its publicaions can still contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 9717450249.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now.