Madurai has a sizable population of people from the Sourashtra community. At least two lakh people from the community are estimated to be living in Madurai, and around 5,000 of them are said to be engaged in production of Sungudi garments.

With no mention of welfare measures for them in political manifestos of political parties, the Sourashtrians here are a disappointed lot. “Representatives from our community approached all major parties for seats, but no one was given the chance to contest.

The welfare of Sourashtrians remains neglected for the past few years,” says P.K. Mathanlal, who runs a Sungudi dyeing unit.

The Sungudi manufacturers are taking efforts to cater to all sections and age groups of people with their innovative designs, but are not quite successful because of lack of patronage from the government, says A.K. Ramesh, secretary of the Federation of Tie and Dye Association.

Despite Tamil Nadu having a population of nearly 20 lakh Sourashtrians, representatives from the community are seldom given seats, rues P.S. Motilal, another member of the association.

“Former MP A.G.S. Rambabu from the Sourashtra community initiated a lot of welfare measures when he was in power,” he recalls.

Madurai has two Sourashtrians, V.G. Ramadoss and K.K. Ramesh, in the fray as independent candidates, and most people from the community have hopes pinned on them.

“Mr. Ramadoss hails from a family, which was in the business of handlooms for several generations. He understands the problems we face and we are hopeful that he will take initiatives to safeguard our interests if elected,” says Mr. Mathanlal.

“We want a representative, who will control price rise, ensure water and electricity supply to us. Without electricity and power, our business is slowly fading,” says P.S. Prabhudas, a dyeing unit owner.

Eighty per cent of Sourashtra population in the city is concentrated in the surroundings of Thirumalai Naicker Mahal, with the rest in places such as Balarengapuram, Krishnapuram Colony and outskirts of the city.

“The production cost of Sungudi has shot up manifold in the recent years. We want the government to give us an additional unit in the textile park, provide us subsidy and control production cost. We want a government-run showroom to promote Sungudi garments,” Mr. Ramesh says.

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