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Najma launches scheme for minority craftsmen in Varanasi
Thursday May 14, 2015 8:37 PM, IANS

Varanasi: Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Najma Heptulla, on Thursday launched an ambitious central scheme-USTAAD (Upgrading Skills and Training in Preservation of Traditional Arts/Crafts of Minorities).

Claiming it to be a first of its kind initiative towards preservation of the traditional heritage of minorities, Heptulla said here that it was a coincidence that a sizeable section of the artisans and craftsmen belong to minority communities.

"I have always felt that, regardless of who practiced the art and craft, they are all part of our national heritage and if they were allowed to be lost, it will be a great national loss. Today's younger generations are not able to sustain many of our artistic skills for want of proper patronage and support," she said.

The new scheme is another initiative for skill development of minorities to enable them with entrepreneurial skills and opportunities and forms part of prime minister Narendra Modi's vision of "Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas", Heptulla added.

To complement efforts in the field of education, the ministry has established a special organisation - the Maulana Azad National Academy of Skills (MANAS) - for promoting livelihood through skill development for the minority communities in the fields determined by market requirements.

"After availing the various skill development training programmes from MANAS, the trainees are provided concessional credit for setting up/upgrading their own business enterprises through Minorities Development Finance Corporation. These two together will contribute towards their holistic empowerment and mainstreaming with our larger society," the minister said.

The ministry will soon be releasing a coffee table book which would include various ideas relating to 18 identified crafts across the country and a cross section of minority communities.

Documentation for establishing the uniqueness of the 18 identified crafts from the length and breadth of the country and the cross section of minority communities was carried out for in-depth research on various aspects of identified craft traditions.

This includes write-ups and photo documentation covering the history and evolution of the craft, the production processes, materials and tools involved, evolution of designs and motifs if any, traditional uses and changes in use in case any have taken place.

Associating the scheme USTAAD with Modi's other recent initiatives the minister said that this initiative along with Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) would add a new dimension to the whole concept of skill development, social security and people's empowerment in the country.

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