Shri S S Kumar, former national chairman of the Council for Leather Exports and currently chairman of the governing body of the Government College of Engineering and Leather Technology, is being conferred with a knighthood by the Italian government. The award ‘Cavaliere dell’Ordine Stella della Solidarieta Italiana’ or the ‘Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity’ is proposed by the foreign minister for Italy and is awarded under the decree of the Italian President for Italians and foreign nationals residing outside Italy, who have significantly contributed to the prestige of Italy by way of promoting Italian culture and language and by way of any voluntary activity or humanitarian service that enhances the cordial relations the Italian community enjoys in the world.

Gianni Vernetti, minister of state of the ministry of external affairs, presented the decorations of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity on July 6, 2006, in New Delhi.

Shri Kumar was recognised for several years of hard work in harnessing the potential of both countries. He said: ‘While the Italians excelled in technology we had the raw materials. It was an excellent pair of countries to march forward together.’ He fondly recalled his visits to Italy in 2003 and 2004 which were followed by a ministerial level reciprocal visit of Italian delegates headed by Ambrossio Brenna from Tuscany Region.

Kumar also initiated Italian experts to visit several leather centres in the country and was responsible for the visit of high level footwear component manufacturers from the Marche region of Italy during 2004. He was given the honour of being invited to speak in the 2nd Round Table of the Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and dressers of the European Community at Bologna where he highlighted the position of the developing nations.

The signing of an MOU between CLE and ASSOMAC, the Italian association of leather and shoe machinery manufacturers, was a significant step in India and Italy collaborating more closely than ever. In his initiative an Indian Leather Desk has been set up in Milan headed by a well-known Italian industry representative and which has started yielding good results. He was also involved in the government assisted support scheme for the Leather Design Studio at the Kolkata Leather Complex with Italian technical support.