NBT-NCAER Study on Reading Habits of the Literate Youth of North-East India is out . This focused Report attempts to give an analytical and detailed account of the reading habits of the literate youth in the north-eastern states and their exposure to different forms of media, and how diverse socio-economic and motivational factors impact their reading habit. The reading of ‘leisure or non-text books’ among the literate youth is the special focus of the study.
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 North-Eastern (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 findngs in respect of the NE states with the overall Indian situation.
It has been observed from the survey results (NYRS-2009) that one fourth (25%) of the literate youth at the all India level, read books other than text books. The proportion of leisure readers is higher in urban India (31.2%) compared to rural India (21.3%). This shows that the rural youth is placed at a disadvantage compared to the urban youth – only one fifth of among them are able to read books.
As compared to all India, the performance of the north-eastern states is much superior. In fact, the north-eastern region has performed much better than Maharashtra, which is the topmost state of the country in terms of economic well-being. The results reveal that the NAGMAMI region is at the top slot with 67 percent (85% urban, 59% rural) readers followed by Assam with 41 percent (55% urban, 38% rural), showing that these NE states are far ahead of Maharashtra with 34 percent (39% urban, 28% rural) readers. The ‘rest of the NE states’ and the ‘rest of the states’ are at the bottom of the table with only 24 percent and 23 percent readers respectively in these regions.
The north-eastern states of India, despite their economic backwardness, have a greater proportion of readers among its youth population. The survey results reveal that in the
north-eastern states, 43 percent of the youth are readers. While the central states have the largest block (85%) of non-readers, the north-east has the smallest (57%).
It is noticed that the north-eastern region has the highest proportion of literate youth hailing from rural areas, while in the remaining parts of India, the concentration of
literate youth is more towards urban.
Even though, in the northern, eastern and north-eastern states, the general castes’ literate youths dominate, it may be pointed out that the north-east is home to a relatively higher proportion (23%) of the literate youth from Scheduled Tribe (ST) community. Moreover, a relatively higher concentration of Muslim literate youth is noticed in the north-eastern states since about one-third of the literate youth in this region are Muslims, followed by another 18 percent Christians.
Though Assam is known as the entry point to the north-eastern states with comparatively improved infrastructure and better economic prospects, the proportion of leisure book readers here (39%) is much lower than in Mizoram (62%), Manipur (52%) and Nagaland (47%).
It is observed that 73 percent of the youth in Bihar and 45-47 percent in NE region, 34 percent in Maharashtra and 41 percent in the rest of the states are fiction readers, the
percentages of non-fiction readers being 11, 18, 27 and 25 as against 42 percent fiction readers and 24 percent non-fiction readers in the country as a whole.
In rural Assam the most liked non-fiction genre is ‘biographies’ (28%) followed by ‘selfhelp books’ (25%) which is preferred only by 8 percent of the non-fiction readers of rural India.
In urban Assam, ‘biographies’ (36%) and ‘philosophy’ (29%) are the two most popular genre of non-fiction books. But in urban areas of other NE States, biographies’ (32%) is the most preferred while ‘current affairs’ and ‘religious books’ are at the second and third positions with 22 percent and 21 percent readership respectively.
In both rural and urban areas of Maharashtra, 34-35 percent of the youth prefer ‘biographies’ and 30-31 percent ‘religious books’ (Tables 4.14, 4.15). But, in Bihar, the rural percentages of both ‘biographies’ (45% vs 34%) and ‘religious books’ (28% vs 24%) are higher. In the rest of the states, 29-30 percent of the non-fiction readers prefer ‘biographies’ but the readership of ‘religious books’ is significantly higher in rural areas (37%) compared to urban (28%).
A stark rural-urban divide in favour of urban has been observed in the cases of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura. But the differences are quite narrow in Manipur and Nagaland.
At the all India level, there is not much association between size of the household and readership among its members. A similar situation is observed across most of the northeastern states as well. However, one prominent exception is Nagaland, where it is seen that higher the size of the household, greater is the percentage of people reading leisure books. The situation is completely opposite in Mizoram where a higher percentage of the readers (67%) comes from the households with 1-2 people and the percentage falls to 60 for households with more than five members.
The percentage of youth who read leisure books in rural areas is the highest in Nagaland (57%) and lowest in Arunachal Pradesh (12%), while in urban areas Mizoram (74%) and Sikkim (15%) have accounted for the highest and lowest percentages.
In Assam, the highest percentage of rural youth (41%) considers the subject of the book as the most important deciding factor. The other important considerations are ‘author profile’ and ‘price’ as viewed by 26 percent and 17 percent youth respectively . However, in other NE states, price of the book is the most important factor (52%) while purchasing leisure books, followed by subject (16%) and author profile (13%).
For rural Maharashtra, subject is the most important weighing factor as viewed by 38 percent youth, the next important factor being price which has only a marginal amount of higher support over the author profile (22% vs 19%). The youth from the ‘rest of the states’ has expressed a more convincing opinion – that subject (30%) and author profile (27%) are the two most important weighing factors, price can only be the third factor .