Khadi Inc Bucks Slowdown, Creates Jobs & Wealth

Like it or not, Modi has lent glamour to the khadi fabric and contributed to its popularity and profitability. This is evident from the Khadi Commission’s balance sheets in the last five years

Amidst India’s current economic slowdown — from aviation to biscuits to cars – the ‘desi’, or the native, is defying the depressing trend. 

Rooted in soil and traditions, khadi or khaddar, the hand-spun, hand-woven fabric and an array of home-made products of daily use in drawing room, kitchen and toilet are selling better than the branded domestic and multinational stuff.

This is no mere patriotic song; it means jobs and money. And it’s voluntary and now, market-driven.

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) ought to be on the national and global bourses except that it is a statutory government corporation established by an Act of parliament.

After long years of neglect and charges of bad performance despite being heavily subsidized, it has entered the profit trajectory.

Its annual turnover of Rs 75,000 crore in 2018-19 is more than double of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). India’s largest corporate manufacturer/marketer, the British-Dutch MNC accounted for Rs 38,000 crores in that year.

KVIC’s growth has been phenomenal in the last five years. From relatively low Rs 33,000 crores during 2014-15, it jumped to Rs 50,000 crores two years later, growing at 25 percent annually. Buoyed by the latest performance chart, the target for 2019-20 is 20 percent higher, at Rs 80,000 crores.

Proportionately, others do make greater profits. But KVIC, more than just a corporate success story, should be viewed for depth and extent to which half-a-million people work for it directly, making it one of the largest employers. And indirectly, another 15 million collaborators are spread across individual homes and farms and small and medium manufacturing units.

This defies the current phase of growth without producing jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.  

This is the India that has grown over a century since M K Gandhi launched khadi or khaddar in 1918. Before he involved the masses in the fight for political freedom, this was his first mass-based venture bringing the rural India under the spell of productive self-reliance that meant work and gave a sense of dignity. Thus, khadi was not mere a piece of cloth but became a way of life.

It’s an unlikely story that explains why and how India sustains despite poverty and vagaries of nature.

Gandhi started spinning himself and encouraged others. He made it obligatory for all members of the Indian National Congress, then in fore-front of the freedom movement against the British, to spin cotton themselves and to pay their dues in yarn.

He collected large sums, including from industrialists and thus involving them directly, to create a grass-roots network to encourage handloom weaving. Ironically, handloom thrives today even as many textile mills have closed.

Charkha (spinning wheel) was the symbol of Gandhi-led movement. It became part of the Congress flag, eventually to be replaced by the Ashok Chakra in the national tricolor.

Tragically, people in the present century need to be reminded of all this. The political class has discarded khadi. Economic reforms have pushed urban India away from this cost-effective, climate-friendly fabric.

The other reminder is to people discarding khadi. The white cap that carried Gandhi’s tag is fast disappearing with the ebbing of the Congress party and its political culture.

It began early: Babu Jagjivan Ram who swore-in 400 Congress winners in 1984 Lok Sabha polls lamented before senior journalist Vijay Sanghvi that leave alone Gandhi cap, none was even clad in khadi. Today, the party has moved farther way from the common man it once represented.

This has naturally opened space for political appropriation and re-branding by the present dispensation that was not part of the Gandhi-led movement.  Last century’s “Nehru jacket” is now popularized and marketed as “Modi jacket”. The current premier patronizes khadi in its multiple hues and textures. He has also clothed several world leaders in khadi.

Modi has lent glamour to the fabric and contributed to its popularity and profitability. This is evident from the KVIC’s balance sheets in the last five years. The sale of khadi products has reached USD 1.56 billion in the last five years.        

Modern textile technology has helped immensely in softening khadi’s cotton yarn and its bleaching and blending. KVIC is collaborating with top textile brands Arvind for denim and with Raymond.

Helped by fashion designers, khadi helps the elite make fashion statement if only to help them to “rise above” the class that chases the easy-to-maintain global brands or their local imitations which are mass-manufactured and hence relatively cheaper.

It has gone digital. A pair of trendy Western wear is available for a modest Rs 2,000. The high range could be a few hundred rupees for a meter of fabric. 

The challenge lies in marketing. Leaving out main markets in major cities where it is given peppy look, Khadi Bhandars across India wear traditional, desolate look.

Yet, marketing of khadi and other products, even their exports, remains a unique example of public-private participation (PPP). Private entities buy from KVIC-affiliated and state government-run cooperatives. Encouraged, KVIC is looking for export markets after a survey in 21 overseas markets showed that khadi was the most recalled Indian brand, along with yoga. Its success could build on India’s ‘soft’ diplomacy.   

Having credited khadi for generating the overall ‘desi’ revolution, it must now be conceded that the fabric that sold for Rs 2,005 crores forms only 4.3 percent of the total KVIC turnover. Fuller credit is due to numerous items like papad, soaps and shampoos, herbal medicines and cosmetics, honey, handicraft material, brassware, vegetable oils and organic grains and pulses.

They are produced by nameless housewives, rural artisans including cooks, potters and painters and small entrepreneurs in both public and private sectors. They make and market goods with or without the KVIC supervision and umbrella and form a unique network that probably exists nowhere else. 

Industry experts attribute the organisation’s success to many domestic and international fashion designers preferring to work with sustainable and natural fabrics. There is also a buzz among millennial shoppers, who care about whether the clothes they wear or the products they use create jobs. Since khadi cloth is handspun and its products are mainly created by artisans in rural areas, the brand invokes good vibes in consumers.

In the last five years, the KVIC has promoted new schemes under Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) that have created 2.17 million new jobs. They include Honey Mission and Kumhaar Sashaktikaran Yojana (for potters’ empowerment). This includes distributing bee boxes and electric chaaks or potter wheels in the troubled Kashmir Valley and in Ladakh.  

Such a massive exercise cannot be a top-down process from capital cities without involvement of the makers-cum-beneficiaries. There is need for debate. For instance, where does one draw a line between preserving cultural heritage and industrial/commercial pursuit?

Handloom, for one, should be revived as a skilled occupation that offers livelihood with dignity for both the weaver and the physical environment around, says B. Syama Sundari, coordinator, policy research and advocacy at Dastkar Andhra, an organisation that   promotes handloom weaving as a viable rural livelihood. 

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

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‘Self-Defence Skill India Course Ensures A Job’

A Black Belt in Korean martial art Taekwondo, Anjil Dixit Sharma is one of the first women to get a certification in self-defence course under the Skill India initiative. Sharma feels confident of securing herself a gainful employment.

I am a black belt in Taekwondo, a martial arts form that originated in Korea. I have participated in many national level competitions and earned gold medals as well. I have spent years practising the technique and these skills were the most obvious choice of career for me. However, opportunities are hard to come by. So when my mentor told me about a certified instructor course programme in self-defence under Skill India initiative in Noida, I grabbed the opportunity and went to the office of Strike Self-Defence to check out what was happening. 

A government certification for instructors is like golden recommendation in one’s resume. I immediately enrolled for the course and successfully completed it in six days. Usually, a Karate or Taekwondo teacher is hired by the schools as a self-defence instructor and this certification course has increased my chances of getting a good job. 

I learned real life situations under the training, which changed the perspective of self-defence for me. Taekwondo laid a foundation of self-defence instructor in my life and this training has catapulted it further.

Unlike the oriental traditional martial arts, this self-defence programme in based on real life situations, real life threats, which include weapons, such as, knives, pistols, sticks and others. I was amazed to see how the level of training has changed. The programme is inspired by Israeli technique of Krav Maga and the first batch of instructors were trained with dummy knives, guns and sticks. 

Now I can confidently thwart any attack by knife, stick or firearm. The training is very scientific. The instructors told us practical solutions, like not to engage with a person, who has a gun. The first option is to flee. 

The regime is wonderful in terms of women’s safety, which is the need of the hour. After the course, I have become more confident and can now train people with a more scientific approach. This programme doesn’t require any costumes, demos for breaking ice and bricks, or bending iron rods, which are some of the many demonstrations common in oriental martial arts. These demos can cause injury. The training is focused on maximum utilization of force with minimal effort. One needs to train there to understand how the field of self-defence is being revolutionised.

I come from a middle class family so a sound source of income is important to us. I am confident that my future is secure after enrolling for this course.  With this experience, I can be a helping pillar not only for my family but for the women of the country, who are in desperate need of a self-defence training like this.

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Govt's Assurance On Assam Citizen Register

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday urged the people to not believe in rumours related to the final publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam on August 31.

The ministry reiterated that non-inclusion of a person’s name in NRC does not amount to his or her being declared a foreigner.

“Every individual left out from final NRC can appeal to Foreigners Tribunals (FTs), an increased number of which are being established,” the spokesperson of Home Ministry tweeted.

Posting guidelines for those who have been left out of the final list, the spokesperson said that time limit for filing appeals in FTs has been increased from 60 to 120 days.

“The government will provide legal aid to those needy people who have been excluded from NRC through the District Legal Services Authorities,” the ministry said.

NRC is a register containing names of Indian citizens, which was prepared for the only time in 1951. It is being updated for Assam as of now to weed out illegal immigrants.

Last month, the Supreme Court had extended the deadline for the final publication of NRC from July 31 to August 31. It had rejected a plea to extend the NRC deadline for sample verification.

Ahead of the move, central paramilitary forces have been directed to maintain law and order in Assam.

(ANI)

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Alert In Gujarat After Intrusion Intel

Border Security Force (BSF) and Indian Coast Guard along with other security agencies are on high alert after inputs suggest that Pakistan trained SSG commandos or terrorists would try to infiltrate into Indian territory.

Intelligence sources told ANI on Thursday that inputs have been received suggesting Pakistan trained SSG commandos or terrorists would try to enter Gulf of Kutch and Sir Creek area using small boats.

Enhanced vigil and patrolling in the area is underway, they said.

Security has also been enhanced at the Kandla port in view of these inputs.

Sources said Pakistani commandos are likely to infiltrate through sea route to create communal disturbances or carry out a terrorist attack in Gujarat.

On August 21, ANI had reported that the Pakistani Army has deployed its Special Service Group (SSG) commandos along the Sir Creek area in Gujarat.

Government sources had told ANI that the post where the SSG commandos have been deployed is known as the Iqbal-Bajwa. The SSG commandos may be used for anti-India activities in the region, sources said.

The SSG commandos are also said to be a part of Border Action Teams (BAT) known for carrying out ambushes against the Indian patrol teams along the Line of Control.

The development comes in the wake of India’s decision to scrap Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

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Chidambaram's Arrest Good News: Indrani

Indrani Mukerjea, who recently turned approver in the INX Media case in which former Union finance minister P Chidambaram is an accused, on Thursday showed exuberance over latter’s arrest.

“It is good news that P Chidambaram has been arrested,” she told the media persons outside the Mumbai’s Sessions Court, where she was produced in connection with the murder case of her daughter – Sheena Bora.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had earlier submitted that it has come across evidence in the form of conversations which only Indrani, the former head of INX Media, is privy to, which will help consolidate the case.

Chidambaram, who was arrested on August 21, will be in CBI custody till August 31 in a money laundering case filed by the agency in connection with the INX media scam.

In 2017, the CBI had registered an FIR alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was the Union finance minister.

Following the FIR filed by CBI, ED had filed a case of money laundering against him.

(ANI)

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Independence Day For A 5,000-Yr-Old Civilisation!

British rule in India was just a blip in the long history of the subcontinent. It is best to fold it away in the archaeology of power and reclaim the present as a continuum of many millennia

For a 5,000-year old civilisation to be celebrating ‘Independence’ Day is not only ‘naff’ but an admission that a superior culture has mastered and nurtured it into some sort of maturity. It gives too much respect for a 200-period of rule by the British, neglecting a thousand years of colonisation by other invading forces, including the Mughals, and a 5000 year of indigenous civilisation that was more advanced than the invading British.

Wouldn’t it be more dignified to drop ‘independence’ day and rename it with a new name signifying reaffirmation and continuity of an ancient civilisation that has seen much, experienced much and absorbed much.

The Mughals lasted nearly seven hundred years. Prior to them there were others who had been lords at Delhi, including Sikandar Lodhi. Why so much obsession with a mere 200 years of the British?

There is no doubt that the British were the first invaders who had brought the whole region under one ruler, the British Crown. It is also true that they introduced much of the infrastructure, institutions, constitutional and legal instruments and administrative systems that sustain both India and Pakistan in the modern era.

But much has changed in United Kingdom. It is no longer the Britain, the colonising power that had once thought of itself as a superior culture and power. Britain has learnt a lot from its experience during the colonial period and from the immigrant populations that have settled in its territory. It has metamorphosed. It now seeks partners rather than subordinates around the world.

But India hangs on to the memory of British colonisation more than seventy years after they left. It seems there are still wounds of history, of being brow beaten into modernity, of being oppressed for resources and of being nurtured to become ‘civilised’ as the British called it. It is release from this long period of misery, of being a student, of being shaped and finally matured that 15th august commemorates. Why else celebrate independence.

Every year India gives an update on its stage in development on this day as the Prime Minister stands at Lal Qila to read from the progress card. The PM also expresses aspirations for further improvements. The British delegation is also sat in the enclosure of diplomats, perhaps feeling bored, perhaps feeling a sense of satisfaction that they have started the country on a right path, or perhaps wondering what has all this got to do with them after decades.

With a history of 5000 years, a civilisation with tremendous depth and wisdom, why give the impression as if it only came of age on 15th August 1947? Isn’t it humiliating?

In fact the civilisations of India have always been free. That is why India did not end up with mass conversions either into Islam or Christianity. The civilisations have resisted enslavement through the ages. It is the State that was colonised, first by Islamic invaders, then by European (British, French and Portuguese) invaders. It is the State which seems to be celebrating its independence. But then why just from British. Why not from the Mughals?

Delhi feels like a spook town on this day of State celebration. There does not seem to be great enthusiasm on the part of masses to celebrate Independence Day with any popular cultural functions. There isn’t the razzmatazz, the family reunions, the fireworks, the town parades etc that the American Independence day is known for. It is not difficult to understand this difference. The USA is a new-born country, a recent community and one without a lineage. It was full of migrants who sought to forge their own country and way of life free from the British Crown.

India is different. The region had distinctive cultures and civilisations before the British and they have continued after the British left. The people have merely succeeded in throwing out the invaders who didn’t integrate with the indigenous. Nothing much changed in the everyday culture and the long history of the region in terms of its practices, or its people, or its belief systems. In fact there were some distortions introduced during the Raj, which are being corrected now.  The cultures of the region were there before 1947 and have continued since. Those who ruled the State have changed.

Perhaps rather than continue with a historical timewarp, why not call this day a regeneration day and name it ‘Bharat Divas’ giving its different regions a day to celebrate their distinctive cultures, customs, dances, etc. It will be a day of diversity and unity, a day of common celebration but with distinctive flavours and a day when people across the country can put their passions into being part of a whole yet with their own languages and ways.

It could be a very participatory day, as colourful as Diwali, but with a difference. Whereas Diwali is a religious festival of one religion, albeit the majority, the Hindus, a common Bharat divas will be secular, encouraging everyone irrespective of their background to celebrate a day of unity.

Imagine a day like this where parades take place with floats from different sections of society, with different cultural dances and different national dresses all celebrating their common nationality. It will be a tremendous reflection of the diversity of the region, its long surviving plurality and its colourful cultures.

The British period was but a blip in the long history of the region. It is best to fold it away in the archelogy of power and reclaim the present as a continuum of many millennia without giving importance to any one period. A Bharat Divas has more pride and more indigenous flavour to it. This day can be a celebration that Bharat finally started to revive itself.

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Mayawati Re-elected As BSP Chief

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati being felicitated during the meeting of Central Executive Committee and All India-State Office Bearers at the BSP office in Lucknow on Wednesday. She was re-elected as the party chief. ]]>