Livery of freedom
Spinning an economic movement through a humble wheel that had spun the spirit of freedom movement.
Khadi is not simply a cloth, but a concept. It was an integral part of India’s freedom struggle, since Gandhiji made khadi a ‘weapon’, to revolutionise 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 the charkha into larger use, with his teachings to achieve people’s
“Katabi charkha sajan tuhun kat Milihen ehi se Suraj” (I shall spin charkha, you also spin, O Dear Hubby. This will give us swaraj (independence)).
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 the All India Bunkar Sangh was set up in 1925 and followed by the 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 (Khadi and Village Industries Commission or KVIC) came into existence. Since then, the Ayog has developed a wide network all over the country and is working through more than 5,000 registered organisations (non-government) and nearly 10,000 retail sale centres to sell the Khadi Gramodyog products.
The Ayog has three basic aims: (1)
To establish the Khadi Udyog as a cottage industry to create opportunities for employment, (2) To manufacture such products as will get the market for sale and (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.
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 the economy of the poor people, especially women of the villages who have enough spare time but no work to do.
In the rural areas, people are migrating to non-agricultural engagements, as the possibilities of employment are getting reduced with the use of machines in agriculture. Here, the contribution of the non-agriculture sector in the economy has reached nine per cent. Nearly 18 per cent of the country’s total workforce and 25 per cent of the rural workforce belong to the 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 employment in the villages.
These units are producing nearly 45 per cent products. In the export basket also, their share is equally so. Thus, khadi, together with Gramodyog products, has a great role in the creation of employment in villages.
Till 31 March 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. The 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 per cent 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 only 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. 20,000 only. The raw material may also be easily found in the villages.
The problems: However, the khadi udyog is beset with many problems. Marketing is the paramount problem for the 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 middlemen, who do not pay them properly or adequately.
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 the prices.
Wages of workers in khadi udyog are lower, as compared to other organisations. The average monthly income of khadi weavers is Rs. 3,000 only, which is lower than even the MNREGA standard. The weavers feel inclined to walk out of khadi units – the strength of bunkars engaged in khadi plants is getting reduced these years. It is reported, in the state of Gujarat, the number of khadi bunkars has come down from 60,000 to 10,000.
New schemes: To help khadi, government has envisaged the Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFRTI) to set up 800 SFRTI clusters, with government investment of Rs. 850 crore. Old machines and instruments will be replaced, new techniques implemented and shared plants installed, all to help nearly four lakh weavers.
The SGSY programme of the ministry of village development has been reorganised and PMEGP has been designed, combining the PMRY and REGP programmes, appointing the KVIC as a nodal agency.
Skill India Mission and khadi:
The Government of India has conceptualised 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 contributions 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 with their own work.
Solar charkha: With the passing age, charkha has undergone a 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 revolutionise the khadi udyog.
Jharkhand state has gone ahead in the development of thread using different kinds of machines – Jharcraft and
Samridhi. The latter produces 200 gm of tassar thread per day. More women are working with this machine. From the year 2009 till now, women have earned a profit of Rs. 26.18 lakh. This has revolutionised the conditions of women a great deal.
Designer khadi: The 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 leading fashion designing institute NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) 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”.
Air hostesses in khadi uniform.
MSME minister Kalraj Mishra inaugurating a khadi skill development centre.