Gandhi’s views on Khadi as a remedy for India
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi saw spinning Khadi as solution to India’s chronic problems of poverty and unemployment. In Khadi, Gandhi saw a confluence of morality and economics. Gandhi believed economics which allows one country to prey on another is immoral. He once said, “It is sinful to eat American wheat and let my neighbour the grain-dealer starve for want of custom.” Before independence the country relied on raw material that was imported. Thus, if Indians spin their own yarn it would mean end of dependence on foreign material, provide employment to thousands and at an individual level, mean a moral victory.
In India, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) was established by an act of Parliament in 1957. KVIC is a body tasked with promotion of Khadi and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). To give an impetus to Khadi, KVIC introduced ‘Khadi Jeans’ as part of Gandhi Jayanti on October 2, 2015.
Nivedita Saboo, a leading fashion designer based in Pune, said, “Khadi and other indigenous crafts and material have come into focus since about three-four years. Through an awareness campaign, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) took efforts to introduce Khadi to fashion designers from India and abroad. This has led to big brands like Peter England coming up with exclusive Khadi collections.”
About Khadi being expensive for buyers and sustainable for sellers, Saboo said, “Khadi is at par with other fabrics in terms of cost. For any other fabric, if the product is more detailed in its design, the cost increases simultaneously. Khadi is no different.” Saboo added, “Khadi is as sustainable as any other fabric business.” Indira Broker, a Pune-based handloom enthusiast who has helped organize many exhibitions, disagrees on what Saboo has to say about Khadi. Broker said, “ Pure Khadi is being replaced by Poly-Khadi. Poly-Khadi is a fabric which consists of 50 % Khadi and 50% Polyester. Poly-Khadi can be easily maintained, is affordable and is available in abundance. For example, one meter of Poly-Khadi costs Rs 110, pure Khadi costs Rs 230. So, khadi is no longer the common man’s fabric it used to be. Only the well-to-do can afford it now.”
Apart from foreign companies, power looms in rural areas are also a competition to Khadi and other village industries. Power looms require less capital and output is more which has posed a big challenge to Khadi. Broker added, “Khadi is no longer produced on the traditional Charkha. Looms are used to produce the yarn.” With changing times, Khadi seems to have lost that enviable position it occupied during the freedom struggle. However, through sincere efforts on part of all stakeholders, Khadi can be protected from being lost to future generation.