Khadi, the icon of India dying a slow death due to poor policy making

Now, many social activists and khadi experts are voicing it to reinstall khadi as a national icon, especially after the Central government brought an amendment to the National Flag Code.

Published: 01st August 2022 08:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st August 2022 09:04 AM   |  A+A-

Khadi mill, image used for representational purpose. (File Photo)

Khadi mill, image used for representational purpose. (File Photo)

Express News Service

If you come across khadi material or a neatly finished outfit at any regular shop in your city, take a closer look. It could be duplicate or lookalike khadi material which is currently in fashion. Ironically, there are hardly any takers for real khadi, which is dying a slow death.

The development of Khadi and Village Industries (KVI) aimed at meeting the twin objectives of self-reliance through local production, and seeking the active participation of the poor in the struggle for Independence, through the removal of hunger and unemployment.

Its potential as an instrument of poverty alleviation was also recognised by our early planners. Accordingly, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) was created by an Act of Parliament to plan, promote and organise their systematic development and expansion.

A study conducted by the Programme Evaluation Organisation (PEO) of the Planning Commission, way back in March 2001, through a sample survey of 176 Khadi & Village Industries (KVI) units, 730 beneficiary households spread over 32 blocks in 18 states found that the planning and implementation mechanisms in the khadi industry were weak, as the linkages between production, sales and employment generation were not adequately considered.

Monitoring of this sector was weak, and the database used for planning and management decisions did not represent the grassroots realities. In terms of output, sales, job creation and efficiency in the use of resources, the performance of the village industry sector was found to be better than that of the khadi sector.

The study also found that it was possible to run the scheme with a reasonable level of fiscal support if certain corrective measures, as suggested in the report, are taken. However, even after more than two decades, there are multiple reasons to blame, and the iconic khadi is slowly making its way out of homes, offices, markets, hostels and hotels.

The Central and state governments, which once supported khadi industries by giving rebate of up to 40 per cent, have withdrawn it in the changing scenario. The age-old rebate on khadi is now called “the manufacturer’s development allowance”, but the delay in releasing the money to the industries is among the reasons for weakening the sector. There have been instances of khadi units not getting development allowance for many years.

Now, many social activists and khadi experts are voicing it to reinstall khadi as a national icon, especially after the Central government brought an amendment to the National Flag Code, allowing polyester flags to flutter this Independence Day.

The activists claim that the plan for ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ was made two years ago, and the government could have pre-booked the flags in khadi which could have given a robust boost for the limping industry. 

“Khadi is an icon and represents the entire hand-making sector. It’s a sacred economy. You cannot just shift to some other economy. The government initially made tall promises, but most of the promises to uplift hand-making industries have remained mere promises,” says playwright and social activist Prasanna Heggodu.

“The dependency on machines will kill the economy. What’s sad is that in India, we could have turned the tables and brought in a hand-making economy both as an economic alternative and also as an environmental alternative. Instead, the Central government closed down the hand-making industry unit in Chitradurga. The Khadi Commission is actually killing khadi in India. The bureaucrat-centric Commission is busy branding khadi without knowing the ground reality,” he points out.

Shivanand Mathapati, Secretary of Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha (Federation) of Hubballi, points out that government departments and hostels have stopped taking khadi products such as bedsheets, carpets, towels and others, which is among many reasons why some of the village industries in Karnataka are unable to put up a fight in the competitive market,” he points out.

Boards like Khadi Commission and state units must have members who are experts on khadi or have worked in units like Bengeri (in Hubballi) to understand the issues of workers, availability of raw material and others.

“For instance, senior officials of the board must know how many metres of flag khadi units in his jurisdiction can produce in a year. We believe there were no officials to explain the importance of the khadi flag or give orders in advance, so that village industries could be revived to meet the emerging demand. Many youngsters join khadi boards with just a degree in textiles. These youngsters must be enrolled in khadi units in districts to understand the ground reality and also why the popularity of khadi is going down,” he said.

“The khadi industry in India was in its golden era when Mahatma Gandhi started the movement of making khadi at the village-level, and the second time after we got Independence. But successive governments kept ignoring the khadi industry, and competition from the market is pushing it to the brink. While the village poor were dependent on the khadi industry, half of them moved to agriculture after thousands of villages in India started irrigation. But still there is hope. There are many khadi loving people who insist on khadi in many materials. But their tribe must grow,” Mathapati adds.

Khadi experts also point out that the fashion industry must take up khadi branding seriously. Also, one should not buy duplicate khadi products available in the market. “There have been several attempts in the past to establish regular khadi wear in the fashion industry. Many designers have come out with modern outfits in formal and party wear using khadi material. But there are a number of non-khadi dress materials that are available in the market for a lesser price,” points out a fashion writer.

Programme evaluation organisation suggestions for Khadi Sector

  • Product development and marketing need a professional approach.

  • The policy of retail sale of khadi products through KVIC outlets and own effort of the units must be done away with, as it has led to unintended inventory build-up, malpractices and unsustainable and unjustifiable public spending (rebate, grants).

  • A thorough overhaul of marketing strategy for khadi products.

  • Leave marketing and product development to the private sector, while the semi-processed goods will be produced by KVI units/institutions under the guidance and supervision of KVIC.

  • Change the existing method of supervision and intervention followed by KVIC, as it was ineffective and did not contribute to the primary objective of the scheme.


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