The building for a common facility service centre for the Federation of Tie and Dye and Hand Printed Textile Cluster self-help groups involved in weaving the famous sungudi saris was inaugurated at Avaniapuram near here on Wednesday.

This is a joint venture of many agencies with Indian bank providing a total of Rs. 18.25 lakh to 73 artisans (Rs. 25,000 each) to buy the 1.1 acre land, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) providing Rs. 25 lakh for constructing the building and Small Industries Product Promotion Organisation (SIPPO) overseeing the implementation.

Dwindling numbers

Delivering the inaugural address, N. Mathivanan, District Collector, said that while nearly 1,000 families from Sourasthra community were involved in this sector 700 years ago, only around 250 families are still in the trade.

Apart from the infrastructure, training to upgrade artisans’ skills was given. Five design and technical workshops were conducted enabling them to come out with new products like hand bags besides introducing value addition to the saris, he said.

Under social intervention, 108 artisans were given Artisan Identity Card covered under the Janshree Bima Yojana and their children (standard 9 to 12) given education scholarships of Rs. 1,200 a month, said Mr. Mathivanan.

He also assured the artisans that he would positively look into their demands of a permanent exhibition venture and a proper approach road to the Centre.

Preserving history

Speaking earlier, R. Shankar Narayan, Assistant General Manager, said that such clusters would help preserve the sungudi sari and its 700 years of history.

Apart from opening an exclusive website for them, he said that the Madurai Sungudi had been registered in the Geographical Indication Registry through the Office of Assistant Director of Handlooms.

R. Nithyanandan, Deputy General Manager, NABARD, Chennai, said that this cluster was an example of NABARD’s commitment to rural development.

S. Rajagopal, Chairman and Managing Director of SIPPO, sought the assistance of DIC and KVIC to move the units from the congested urban areas to rural localities.

S. Maruthappan, General Manager, District Industries Centre (DIC), said that cluster model of development was being actively promoted by both the State and Central Governments.

M.T. Wakode, Director of Madurai Division, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), said that locating such a Centre in a remote place would ensure that the entire locality gets infrastructure development.

J.S. Kuppusamy, president of the Federation, said that more facilities and equipment would be brought to the Centre soon.