Fake khadi and real Modi

If the PM desires, he can use his ingenuity of working hard as an ordinary 'pracharak' to rescue khadi.

Replacing the picture of Mahatma Gandhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the calendar and diaries of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has created fresh controversy over appropriation of the iconic image of the father of nation Mahatma Gandhi’s spinning charkha.

It is claimed that as a result of the prime minister’s persistent appeal to propagate khadi over his radio broadcast Mann Ki Baat and other platforms, the sale of khadi has shot up by 29% with the total sales increasing to Rs 1,510 crore in 2015-16.

The KVIC has set a target of attaining sales worth Rs 5,000 crore by 2018. And they believe the prime minister being the brand ambassador for khadi has helped propel the decaying cottage industry into a highly profitable venture.

Responding to the widespread criticism, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) first said that it was an unnecessary controversy as there was no strict rule about printing the photos on calendar and diaries. Later, buckling under the pressure, it said that KVIC has not sought permission to use the photo of Modi.

“There is no question of Modi replacing Gandhiji’s picture,” it said. Defending the KVIC move, its chairman V K Saxena said there was “no rule or tradition” that only Mahatma Gandhi’s picture can be published on these items.

The unanimous opposition against this move cutting across party lines has highlighted the fact that the father of the nation is irreplaceable.  The Congress said that, "khadi and Gandhiji are symbols of our history, self-reliance and struggle. Removing Gandhiji's photo is a sacrilegious sin".

Unfortunately, the political parties are raking up the issue to show how ‘patriotic’ they are and their intolerance to the use of iconography of Gandhi by a `democratically elected autocrat’. Ironically, none of the political parties has raised the real issue of how Gandhi’s ideology of khadi has been usurped.

It is a well known fact that almost 90% of the khadi sold in our country is fake. There are reports of spurious khadi being produced in China and dumped in India. Similarly, the famed weavers of Varanasi and Kanchipuram are waiting to breathe the last breath due to the dumping of products that are machine made in China. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee must also be aware that the famed Kolkata cotton is no more manufactured in her state.

But these hard facts and the death of weavers and the handloom sector in our country is not an issue for the political parties. For them, the symbolic Gandhi is more important than the practical ideology of self reliance which he propagated.

The basic essentials of khadi as envisioned by Gandhiji mean the cloth is made from cotton that is hand spun or hand woven. The farmers have lost their self reliance as 97% of cotton seeds are lost as they depend on the corporates for seed supply.  The agrarian crisis with high farmers’ suicides is the result of ignoring the self reliance of seeds and modes of production in rural areas.

The success of khadi was not to be measured by the rise in sales, but how it can help develop and strengthen the decentralised rural economy based on the principles of self reliance, equity and justice.  Khadi and village industries were the cornerstone to empower the agrarian population in generating and sharing wealth at the local level that has the capacity to redistribute wealth.

Economic premise

Ironically, it is the Congress that jettisoned the basic economic premise of Gandhiji even before independence. It made a mockery of khadi and village industries by supporting the industrial interests. As claimed by a spokesman, instead of putting Gandhian thought into practice, Congress mummified Gandhi into a symbol. For all practical purposes, it decimated the economic agenda of Gandhi when he was still alive!

Continuing its diabolical onslaught on Gandhi’s ideas the Congress government formed the KVIC under an Act of Parliament in 1957. It is strange that KVIC is an ideal place for rehabilitation of political sycophants that doles out low interest loans to khadi units, destroying the self reliance which it is supposed to uphold.

What more, it supports and propagates the production of spurious khadi through poli vastra, mixture of cotton and polyester! The adulteration has official approval. So, it is not surprising that with such a track record of sycophancy KVIC takes decision to replace Gandhi.

It is this fake khadi that our prime minister is propagating and has become the brand ambassador?! It is too naive to believe that he is not aware of the spurious nature of khadi. He has the proven ingenuity of working hard as an ordinary ’pracharak’ to become the chief minister and the prime minister. If he desires he can put the same ingenuity into practice to rescue khadi.  If not, this will be an addition to the earlier list of appropriation of Gandhi’s ideas of Swachh Bharat, and low carbon foot print.
Will the real Modi stand up against fake khadi?

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