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In-Depth Jobs

Volume-47, 17-23 February, 2018


Khadi-Prime Fabric for India's Economic Transformation

Dr Shri Nath Sahai


“I shall spin charkha, friend you also spin. This will give us  independence”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Khadi is not a cloth simply, but a concept. It was an integral part of India's freedom struggle, since Gandhiji made khadi a 'weapon' , to revolutionize the village economy. Khadi was named 'livery of freedom'. Nelson Mandela said, "Gandhiji sought to free the individual from his alienation from the machine and to restore morality to the production process" by his spinning wheel and homespun khadi.

Gandhi's Laptop: Gandhi brought Charkha into larger use, with his teachings to achieve people's self-sufficiency. A small portable, hand channel wheel(earlier shape) was considered ideal for spinning cotton and other fibres. It was also included in the earlier version of the Flag of India. So, it occupied a central place in the freedom struggle- both as a tool and symbol of the freedom movement.

Post independence, Khadi received attention at the Government level. After All India Bunkar Sangh set up in 1925 and followed by All India Gramodyog Sangh in 1934, the All India Khadi Gramodyog Mandal was established in 1953 , under the Ministry of Commerce. Later in 1957, the Khadi and Gramodyog Ayog came into existence. Since then, the Ayog has developed a wide network all over the country and is working through more than 5000 registered organizations (non-government) and nearly 10000 retail sale centers to sell the Khadi Gramodyog products.

The Ayog has three basic aims: (1) To establish the Khadi Udyog as cottage industry to create opportunities for employment (2) To manufacture such products as will get the market  for sale (3) To make the maximum number of people self-dependent, connecting them with employment through Khadi Gramodyog. The Ayog conducts its schemes and programmes with the grants and aids of Governments - Central and States .

Women Self-Employment: Khadi Udyog needs small capital investment. Even for the low-income people it is a profitable work. While assuring ample scope of employment, it ensures to build up economy of the poor people, especially women of the villages who have enough spare time but no work to do.

Non-Agriculture Engagement: In the rural areas, people are migrating to non-agriculture engagements, as the possibilities of employment is getting reduced with the use of machines in agriculture. Here, the contribution of non-agriculture sector in the economy has reached nine percent. Nearly 18 percent of the country's total workforce and 25 percent of the rural workforce belong to non-agriculture sector. As such, of all the families of the villages, nearly one-third of these make their earning through non-agriculture works. And to this end, the Kutir Udyog(cottage industry) units are providing employments in the villages. These units are producing nearly 45 percent products. In export area also, their share is equally so. Thus, Khadi, together with Gramodyog products, has great role in the creation of employment in villages.

Till March 31, 2015, nearly 10 lakh people had got employment in Khadi industry, of which there were 8,78,857 spinning workers and 1,46,551 weavers. Khadi and Gramodyog Ayog (KVIC) report mentions that during the year 2013-2014 (till January 2014) nearly 140.29 lakh opportunities of employment were created in this area, that was 13 percent more than the previous year.

Because of initial infrastructure cost being quite small, as compared to other udyogs, khadi udyog is a very convenient source of employment. For spinning Khadi, one needs a wooden Charkha, some cotton and one's soft physical labour to handle, which can be done, sitting at any cool place. It is estimated that while it needs about Rs. 10 lakh to  set up even a small unit of powerloom;  for the khadi it is Rs. 20000 only. The raw material may also be found in the villages.

The Problems: Still, however, the Khadi Udyog is beset with many problems. Marketing is the paramount problem for khadi udyog, as the villages where these units are established, lack in proper approach roads, convenient transport system etc. So they fail to catch the market themselves and depend mostly on the middleman, who do not pay them properly.

Inadequacy in attractive packaging of  the khadi products, as done for the other brands of rich companies, is yet another drag in the marketing, as youths and the elite class are not attracted to these items, despite subsidies and discounts given by the government to lower down            the prices.

Wages of workers in khadi udyog are lower, as compared to other organizations. The average monthly income of khadi weavers is Rs. 3000 only, which is lower to even MNREGA standard. The weavers feel interested to walk out of khadi units - strength of bunkars engaged in khadi plants is getting reduced these years. It is reported, in the State of Gujrat, number of khadi bunkars has come down from 60,000 to 10,000 (sec Kurukshetra, (Hindi) October 2015,   

New schemes: To help Khadi, government has envisaged the Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFRTI) to set up 800 SFRTI clustrals, with government investment of Rs. 850 cr. Old machines, instruments will be replaced, new techniques implemented, shared plants installed, all to help nearly four lakh weavers. The SGSY programme of the Ministry of Village Development has been reorganized and PMEGP has been designed, combining the PMRY and REGP programmes, appointing the KVIC as Nodal Agency.

Skill India Mission and Khadi: The government of India has conceptualized that while making employment available to youths of India, they should be trained in the skill development also, so that they become more self-dependent. Khadi has positive contribution in this regard for the training with new improved machines introduced and new techniques of weaving, threading, designing and colouring  etc. adopted. Village women especially need to develop their skill for the job to earn higher wages. Also it is youth-centric training for the 10th and 12th passed unemployed students to start up with their own work.

Solar Charkha: With the passing age, charkha has undergone metamorphosis. At one time made of bamboo-sticks, it is now 'high-tech'. Solar Charkha has come up to help. Where there is lack of electricity, like villages , it is more women-friendly as it requires less physical labour to handle. This solar energy driven charkha will revolutionize the khadi udyog.

Jharkhand state has gone ahead in development of thread using different kinds of machines- Jharcraft and Samridhi. The latter produces 200 gm Tassar thread per day. More women are working with this machine. From the year 2009 till now, women have earned profit of Rs. 26.18 lakh. This has revolutionized the conditions of women a great deal.

Designer Khadi: Modern age has made people (of all age groups) design-crazy. One prefers to wear modern-trendy-designed, made-up dresses. To give khadi a 'suave and savvy' , pleasing and charming look, the fashion designer NIFT has been brought in to introduce modern cuts and styles in the garments. Alive to the demands, certain private sector companies have prepared and marketed khadi-jeans, trousers, jackets, shirts and kurtas to attract youngsters. Now khadi is no more out of fashion - "Khadi  (is) for nation, khadi for fashion" .

Khadi in India's culture: Khadi is a symbolic cloth of India. PM Narendra Modi, in his visit to China, presented to its President Xi Jinping a jacket made of Khadi. To America's President Barack Obama also, he presented The Gita that was wrapped in Khadi. So, Khadi represents India with pride The PM, in his Man-ki-Baat address , exalted and ennobled Khadi, asking people to make use of it in their life and living. Now, desperate efforts are underway to revive khadi and give public patronage for it.

Sales Soaring: The KVIC data show that sale of khadi units has risen by 14 percent, amounting to Rs. 36425 cr. during 2015-16. But despite this rise, the share of khadi against the other clothes is 0.5 percent only. To boost the sale further, all kinds of uniforms for schools (creating taste for the livery of freedom in children), offices, railways, ports and hospitals need to be made of Khadi, compulsorily.  Special exhibitions be organized, as done on 13 April 2016 (The Establishment Day of Khadi Gramodyog ) which increased the sale by 60 percent - youths and women being the principal buyers.

 Last year (2015) 35000 Indian flags were made of khadi, earning profit of Rs. 1.5 cr. 

Today, in the world going more environment - conscious, there is a need to canvass and drum up khadi's eco-friendly quality and revamp its management and sale.

(The Author is an academic;  e-mail- shrinsahai29in@yahoo.com)