Srikakulam: Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said she will speak to the ministry of textiles regarding the establishment of a textile cluster at Ponduru village in Srikakulam district to promote Ponduru Khadi.

The village of Ponduru in Srikakulam district is renowned for its long, unbroken tradition of making fine khadi. Ponduru Khadi proved its mark during the freedom movement and was the favourite handmade garment of Mahatma Gandhi. According to history, Gandhi was gifted a script of the hand-made Ponduru Khadi by the freedom-fighters of Srikakulam district. Acharya Vinoba Bhave was gifted a khadi dhoti packed it in a matchbox during his visit to Srikakulam.

Participating as a chief guest at the National Handloom Day celebrations at Ponduru village in the district on Saturday, Ms. Sitharaman said the BJP government is giving top priority to khadi and handloom products by taking several steps, including the establishment of exclusive mega handloom clusters at various places in the country.

Stating that handloom marketing has gone up to Rs. 18,000 crore in 2020-21 as against the Rs. 9,000 crore in 2014-15, she said the future of handloom is bright. The minister said that Ponduru Khadi has international recognition but is not fetching remunerative price for weavers due to various reasons. The government is contemplating establishing a handloom cluster at Ponduru on the lines of Mangalagiri in Guntur district to enhance the brand value of Ponduru Khadi, she added.

She also directed NABARD and Lead Bank officials to provide loans to khadi artisans. Ponduru Khadi is famous and it needs a helping hand, the Union minister said, adding the government will try to extend more loans to facilitate the adoption of new technologies in weaving.

The minister inspected the weaving process and interacted with artisans at Andhra Fine Khadi Labour Development Association building at Ponduru. She inspected the khadi distillation system and distributed cheques to several beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Dharmana Krishnadas and AP Legislative Assembly Speaker Thammineni Seetharam sought the Union government's support for the handloom industry in Andhra Pradesh and for the promotion of Ponduru Khadi. Srikakulam MP K. Rammohan Naidu sought a GI tag for Ponduru Khadi to get international recognition and remunerative prices for the products.

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