An international market exists for traditional articles such as the Thanjavur art plate, the veena and silk saris, said the District Collector, M.S. Shanmugham, here on Saturday.

Speaking at the inauguration of the silk handloom cluster for weavers of Thirubuvanam, Ayyampettai and Papanasam, Mr. Shanmugham said that there is one thing common in sungadi saris of Madurai, handloom silk saris of Thirubuvanam, wick lamps of Nachiyarkoil, the icons of Swami Malai and the veena of Thanjavur — they are traditional articles. There was a time when there was no house in Tamil Nadu without the veena, quite contrary to present times.

They should not be viewed only as products earning a livelihood for artisans but more as articles that protect and reflect our rich tradition — hence the need to develop such artisans through ‘cluster programmes’.

Under the cluster approach, the artisans will be provided with skill up-gradation and marketing in addition to being taught to use technology. They will also be taught to produce goods that cost less but are of high quality.

The State Cooperation Minister, Ko. Si. Mani, inaugurated the ‘cluster programme’. He distributed Entrepreneur Club cards to weavers under the cluster programme.

S.T. Ravikumar, Assistant General Manager, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Thanjavur district, said the silk weavers of Thirubuvanam, Ayyampettai and Papanasam areas were not getting due emoluments due to the presence of various intermediaries and the lack of availability of adequate finance.

In order to improve the economic status of the weavers and to develop the craft, NABARD has initiated the cluster development programme through the Small Industries Product Promotion Organisation (SIPPO) which has the expertise and experience in the promotion of clusters. Before the promotion of the cluster development programme, a diagnostic study was conducted which covered a total of 647 weavers, 400 of whom are being brought under the cluster fold.

S. Rajagopal, Chairman and Managing Director of SIPPO, Madurai said that SIPPO has formed a cluster for the Thanjavur veena, sungudi saris of Madurai, wick lamp producers of Nachiyarkoil, icon producers of Swami Malai and now, for silk handloom weavers of Thanjavur district. The cluster for silk weavers is for five years.

R. Narayanan, Chief General Manager, NABARD, A.M. Venkatesa Prasad, Chief Regional Manger, Indian Overseas Bank and K. Malathy, Deputy General Manager, Indian Bank, participated in the programme.

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