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Press Release

THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA DR. MANMOHAN SINGH INAUGURATED THE SHILPA GRAM AT GUWAHATI TODAY. THE FOLLOWING IS THE TEXT OF THE INAUGURAL SPEECH OF THE PRIME MINISTER

Guwahati, January 17,2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a privilege to associate myself with the inauguration of the Shilpgram in Guwahati. I compliment the North East Zonal Cultural Center for showcasing the rich culture, traditions and the exquisite crafts of this region here at Shilpgram. I must also complement the Department of Culture, Government of India and the Government of Assam for their concerted efforts in making this happen.

The north eastern region of our country constitutes a vast reservoir of unique cultural traditions. It is a treasure house of fascinating crafts and fine handicrafts. The artistically woven textiles of the region amply bring out the genius of the people and their aesthetic outlook. This Shilpgram vividly represents the beauty and grace of the people of the north-eastern region of our country. It also captures the immense potential of this region which, if properly harnessed, will significantly improve the economic conditions of the people.

We all are proud of our magnificent legacy of cottage and village industries. The entire world has been captivated by the beauty of these handicrafts. Our tribal brothers and sisters have the unique tradition of making crafts out of local material that are acclaimed for their artistic and utilitarian value. In fact they make handicrafts with effortless artistry. This fine blend of imagination and creativity is of immense importance in our day to day lives. India is' proud of its many splendored traditions that have withstood the toll of time and changing fashion.

The revival of handicrafts was an important element of our struggle for independence. Mahatma Gandhi had the vision of addressing the ill effects of modern civilization by restoring such crafts. In an increasingly globalised world, in which diversities are being threatened, it is important to give handicrafts their due place. Their variety and range represent the inherent pluralism and diversity of our society and civilization.

It is, therefore, imperative that we preserve this precious heritage in all its rich diversity. The Shilpgram, with its wide spectrum of objects, is a concrete meanifestation of our living traditions. It has a huge tourist potential and I hope you will be able to make the best use of its attractions. I hope the Shilpgram becomes a cultural gateway to India in our east. It should make Assam and the north east region the handicrafts gateway between India, China, Bangladesh and the countries of the ASEAN.

I do sincerely believe that the employment potential of our handicrafts sector is vastly under-exploited. We can do much more to encourage these sectors and create job opportunities in the rural areas outside agriculture. Our Government is sincerely committed to this. I am sure that traditional Indians arts and crafts will withstand the threat of competition from modern industry. We will certainly help traditional industries in realizing this objective.

I am happy that the North East Zone Cultural Center has taken the responsibility for the promotion of the cultural traditions of the region. It has remained in the forefront in establishing the Shilpgram. I compliment the Department of Culture for providing both financial and administrative assistance in establishing the Shilpgram. I wish the Shilpgram all success.

Thank you.

BN/NC