More than a century ago, when Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, he had not seen a spinning wheel – Charkha - but during the Swadeshi movement, he meticulously spun the Khadi in the national life style.
Alas! Luster of the fabric faded in mills of time, but, now, the Khadi is in vogue again.
Hauling heavy cart of statistics of Khadi products sales, during last three years, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has reported nearly 33 per cent growth in sale of Khadi products to ₹2,005 crore in the fiscal 2016-17 from ₹1,510 crore a year ago. The ground reality check reveals mounting foot falls at the Khadi sales outlets though Sceptics nurse doubts on vaulting sale figures.
Known for natural luster and rough texture, Khadi strands of late have turned livewire ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Khadi promotion blitz in his talk shows on radio waves three years ago. He hardly loses an opportunity to hard sell the khadi.
Choosing Khadi items and books as preferable gifts over perishable bouquets, he frequently articulates his penchant for khadi and directly signals to governments at the Centre and states as well as to common public that the Khadi must be promoted with spirit of nationalism.
"The sale of khadi products has recorded a quantum jump in 2016-17. We are getting handsome orders from the governments, corporates, schools and colleges and State governments etc. We will achieve the sales target of ₹5,000 crore by the end of 2018-19," KVIC, in a statement recently said.
KVIC is also setting up export cells to promote overseas sales of the products.
Khadi, Common perceptions say, the proud legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and potent tool of national freedom, is “ethical as well as ethnic “and its USP is natural, hand crafted, eco-friendly, bio-degradable and non-exploitive fiber.
It is a cloth woven by hand using handspun yarn only. Natural fibers namely cotton, wool and silk are used in the production. Khadi is identified by the direction of twist in yarn. In Khadi yarn twist direction is “S”. Usually it is called left twist or anti-clockwise twist.
Currently, there are 1.42 lakh weavers and 8.62 lakh spinners in the country and many demand decent returns to their skills. An estimate says that 9.60 lakh charkhas and 1.51 lakh looms churn out Khadi.
Officials say in the last three years, employment in the Khadi and Village industries has increased by more than 13 lakh persons. Total employment in these sectors as on March 31, this year stood at 144 lakh persons. Under the work shed scheme for Khadi artisans, a sum of ₹43.15 crore were released by KVIC providing benefit to 9,057 artisans.
Likewise, under the scheme for strengthening of infrastructure of existing weak Khadi institutions and assistance for marketing infrastructure, A sum of ₹15.50 crore were released to KVIC during last three years, providing assistance to 108 Khadi institutions and 187 Khadi outlets were renovated.
The Khadi and Village industries products are manufactured by about seven lakh privately-owned household units, which are funded through schemes such as the Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme.
In “Mann ki Baat” three years ago, Prime Minister Modi had called upon people to buy at least one Khadi garment. He has made it clear that he was not asking people to become totally “Khaddar Dhari” but everyone must purchase some item of Khadi in festivals.
Union Minister for MSME Kalraj Mishra had said that after the PM's appeal, growth in sales rocketed to a 17.55% from October 2014 to March 2015.After the appeal, growth in production increased by almost 6 times to 31.1% from October 2014 to March 2015 over the previous corresponding period. A large number of bulk orders have been received from PSUs and Corporates like Delhi police, Air India, NTPC, PMO, ONGC, Railways etc.
KVIC was established in 1957 to leverage the unique characteristics of Khadi, the fabric of freedom, for economic upliftment of rural artisans and integrating the Khadi programme with the country’s planning process.
Now, from coarse Khadi to high count hand woven yarn is in vogue and Khadi craze is catching up. Khadi is at the cusp of strong fashion statement.
Schemes under Khadi include KVIC supported development of Khadi program through various Central Sector schemes- Market Development Assistance (MDA), Interest Subsidy Eligibility Certificate (ISEC) Scheme for Khadi and Polyvastra, Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI), Khadi Reform and Development Programme (KRDP), Workshed Scheme for Khadi artisan, Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana, Khadi Karigar Janashree Bima Yojana (JBY)), Strengthening Infrastructure of Weak Khadi Institutions and Assistance for Marketing Infrastructure Under the Raw Material Management scheme etc.
In order to ensure quality raw material for the new model Charkha programme, the KVIC has set up six Central Sliver Plants (CSPs) at Kuttur (Kerala), Chitradurga (Karnataka), Sehore (MP), Etah & Rae Bareli (UP) and Hajipur (Bihar).
In his Autobiography-“My Experiments with Truth”, Mahatma Gandhi had said.” I do not remember to have seen a handloom or a spinning wheel when in 1908,I described it in Hind Swaraj as the panacea for the growing pauperism of India. Even in 1915, when I returned to India from South Africa, I had not actually seen a spinning wheel. In the year 1917, I was taken by my Gujarati friends to preside at the Broach Educational Conference. It was here that I discovered that remarkable lady Gangabehn Majmundar who… lightened my burden by a promise to prosecute an earnest and incessant search for the spinning wheel.”
(Author is journalist. Views expressed in the article are his own.)