Modiís promotion of the textile is welcome, now go for a holistic revival with bottoms-up approach
GN Bureau | April 2, 2016
There has been a sudden revival of “nationalism” – at least of one version of it, and yet it is difficult to imagine that not long ago, one of the prime symbols of nationalism was not an animal, not a divisive slogan but a cloth. After independence, khadi was reduced to a formal uniform of the political class, and along with its wearers, khadi too lost its symbolic force. Its charm remained merely skin-deep.
Now, prime minister Narendra Modi has taken up the task of making khadi popular again. He himself has been a sort of brand ambassador for khadi, making his style of kurtas a fashion statement. His championing of khadi goes counter to the trend of even the political class giving up on khadi.
After Modi spoke of the virtues of khadi, Air India has adopted the fabric for its crew, and the government officers too may don khadi soon. For khadi lovers, it’s all good news.
In Gandhi’s days, khadi was a weapon of the swadeshi, against the imported cloth. After independence, its import should be no less. Gandhi promoted khadi because the hand-spun cotton cloth was at the centre of his vision for India’s self-reliant economy. In interior villages, where there are no job opportunities other than the rain-dependent agriculture, khadi-spinning and similar economic activities can give people a means of livelihood. That role of khadi remains as relevant today as ever, and it can help reduce the mass exodus to cities in search of jobs.
What the current push from the prime minister will do for khadi is to increase its demand. It will have to be complemented with a similar push to increase its supply from the grassroots. For that, the government, through the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), should do more handholding for the struggling and barely surviving cooperative societies in the field of khadi production – their problems go well beyond the lack of demand for khadi.
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