India started the freedom movement by using a fabric of the cloth, and it was Mahatma Gandhi who reduced India’s dependency on other nations and promoted rural self-employment. The word ‘Khadi’ is a Sanskrit translation of “cotton.” Not only Gandhi, even our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has emphasized the importance of Khadi towards making India Self-reliant. PM Modi referred to Khadi as a movement that should be taken forward as a campaign.
Emphasizing the importance of Khadi, Gandhi said, “If we have ‘Khadi spirit’ in us, we will round ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life. The ‘khadi spirit’ means infinite patience. For those who know something about the Khadi production know how patiently the spinners, as well as the weavers, have to sweat at their trade, and even so, must we have endurance while we are spinning the thread of Swaraj”. Khadi is a fabric of freedom, and thus, it has continued to remind the people of its legacy of sustainable living and self-reliance and spin the incomes of the rural poor.
Khadi was the fabric of freedom fighters but also as a means to employ the unemployed rural population. Not only post Independence but also in the global pandemic, the Khadi has played a significant role in providing employment and sustaining many people’s lives. It is still a source of bread for many small workers and contributed to the nation.
Khadi, known as Khaddar, is a handspun fabric that symbolizes a nationalistic worldview as well as a modern ethnic style statement. It is a symbol of the Indian textile heritage, which is usually made from cotton, contrary to popular belief; it is also made from silk and woven yarn called Khadi silk and Khadi wool, respectively. The hand-spinning and hand-weaving are not new to India as it has been in use from time immemorial. Various archeological shreds of evidence like terracotta spindles for spinning, bone tools for weaving, and figurines with woven fabrics, indicate that India’s oldest civilization, i.e., Indus valley civilization was well developed and had a flourishing textile tradition.
The earliest evidence of cotton textiles in India has been seen from the ancient literary reference. The Greek historian Strabo has described the vividness of Indian Khadi. The ages-old paintings in Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra have depicted the process of separating the cotton fibers from the seeds. Even the Chanakya’s Arthashashtra has referred to the “superintendence of yarn or sutradhyaksha” who should “get yarn spun out of wool, bark-fibers, hemp, cotton, and flax” and “cause work to be carried by artisans producing goods.” The hand-woven Indian muslin, in Medieval India, was in high demand all over the world for its fine and translucent quality.
The Portuguese in Calicut has introduced the calico fabric named after Calicut and chintz, which soon became familiar with common people due to their comfort, availability, low price, and durability. France and England, worried about their local mills, banned the import of chintz in 1686 and 1720, respectively. In addition to this, they flooded the Indian markets with low-cost fabrics manufactured in the European mills. Due to this, the production of hand-woven Khadi in India declined, and millions of weavers lost their livelihood as the machine-made textile from Manchester took over the Indian market. This decline was single-handedly halted by a diminutive man who made the Charkha the basis of India’s economic regeneration.
By reviving India’s Khadi Industry, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi encouraged people to boycott British clothes and spin their yarn and wear Khadi. Gandhiji made Khadi a symbol of National pride, heritage, and all things Swadeshi. It encouraged people to use Khadi and lead to record sale of khadi products in the last few years. Also, it highlighted the exploitative policies of the Britishers. After the Non-Cooperation Movement, the All India Spinners Association was formed to promote, propagate, produce, and sell Khadi and provided employment to India’s impoverished weavers.
The Indian Government, after Independence, established an All India Khadi and Village Industries Board, which became the Khadi Village and Industries Commission (KVIC) in 1957. KVIC is responsible for the development of the Khadi Industry and to promote the research in the production techniques, supplying raw materials, quality control, and marketing of Khadi.
Because of its rugged texture, comfortable feel, and ability to keep people warm in winter and cool in summer, the Indian textile Industry, even in the 21st century, made it look appalling to the millennial generation and ensured that Khadi remained in vogue. They have made all possible efforts to convert the humble fabric into high-fashion wear. However, the new-age Khadi products in India are not very cheap, but it has continued to be special in many ways even today.
Khadi market share in the Indian Domestic textile market can increase up to 5 percent from 1 percent with interventions like solar charkha that has been introduced by the Indian Government. This can help to make Khadi more competitive and generating jobs in the rural sector and women empowerment. The innovations in weaving and spinning and more advanced technologies can help Khadi to evolve all over the world.
With the spread of the deadly pandemic COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the greater use of face masks or face covers as a means to reduce the spread of community transmission of COVID-19. With the growing cases of Corona in India, people realized the importance of wearing masks to reduce the spread of the virus. Along with this, the Central Government in April 2020 has issued an order mandating the use of face masks or face covers.
With the sharp increase of demand for masks in the market, various organizations began mass-manufacturing face masks and presented a huge opportunity for them to meet the rising demands of face masks in India. Khadi, being an eco-friendly and bio-degradable fabric became an ideal choice as it retains almost 70% of the moisture which allows the air to pass easily makes it quite comfortable.
The first center to be converted into a mask stitching center was KVIC’s napkin stitching center in Nargotta, near Jammu. The production in the center began in April 2020 which produced nearly 10,000 masks every day. This, in turn, has provided employment and livelihood to about 300 families affected by the COVID-19. In addition to this, the KVIC chairman has also appealed to all Khadi institutions to donate a minimum of 500 masks to support the local workers across the country which was responded to very well from almost all states of India.
Various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) like Aatmnirbhar Sena and many khadi institutions with their concerted efforts have helped various states to manage and supply the Khadi masks efficiently. The fifty-eight Khadi Institutions of Rajasthan have employed 1,553 workers by producing more than 170,000 masks. This has contributed towards the record sale of Khadi products amid Covid.
The Government of Uttar Pradesh was the first state that decided to use Khadi to fight against Covid-19 and it placed an order for 660 Mn Khadi masks by April 4, 2020. The Uttar Pradesh Government by promoting the State Rural Livelihood Mission by this exemplary move has ensured the widespread availability of masks and generates employment for women in rural areas. It has aimed to increase the record sale of Khadi products amid Covid fear. This Mission has provided a source of income to over 600,000 women of the Self Help Groups who earned Rs. 200 per day. This step has been very crucial in sustaining the lives of many during the lockdown.
An initiative by the Jharkhand Government where the Department of Posts has signed an agreement with various post offices to ensure the availability of masks to all through the e-payment. The women in various villages of Gujarat have earned $140,000 within a week by sewing over 12,000 masks which are bought by the Gujarat Government to distribute among health workers, doctors, and other staff. This has emerged as a record sale of khadi products amid Covid-19. The KVIC Chairman, Mr.VK Saxena has highlighted the record sale of Khadi products such as masks amid the pandemic. It is also in line with the Prime Minister’s initiative ‘vocal for local’.
The spirit of Khadi lovers soared high even amid Covid fear as the sales figure of Khadi crossed Rs. 1 crore at Delhi’s flagship Khadi India outlet in Connaught Place. The overall record sale of Khadi products was significantly high even in the corona pandemic situation which reached Rs. 1,02,19,496. With the launch of the customary annual special discount, the KVIC has celebrated the 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This massive figure of record sale of Khadi products indicates the dedication of Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards Khadi and it has gained popularity among youths.
With the repeated appeals of the Hon’ble PM, a large number of people came out to buy Khadi products amid Covid fear. The record sale of Khadi products amid Covid fear has assumed great significance as almost all the businesses were shut down and affected during Covid lockdown, but Khadi continued to be the choice of people which has helped to keep the consumer base intact. By this, we have tried to overcome the economic distress and fear due to the Corona pandemic and it has yielded greater profits to the Khadi artisans with the record sale of Khadi products amid Covid fear. The Prime Minister’s appeal for ‘’Aatmanirbhar Bharat’’ and ‘’Vocal for local’’ has infused a new life into the Khadi Industry in India.
To expand the promotion of the ‘Make in India‘ initiative, the KVIC is constantly trying to supply the raw materials for one million Para-military forces uniform. To extend the growth and record sale of Khadi products, the Rajasthan Government has announced a 50 percent additional discount on Khadi clothes and a revolving fund of Rs. 10 crores to support the Khadi businesses. Khadi has played an important role in building the nation in bringing change in organizing the rural economy and making India self-sufficient.
Khadi has helped India to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as it has fulfilled 8 out of 17 United Nations SDGs in health and well-being, zero-carbon footprint, responsible production and consumption, innovation and industry, collaborations, and women empowerment.
The Indian textile industry has all geared-up in making a variety of masks with people becoming more conscious during the pandemic. With the rising demand for masks during Covid, India’s export revenue is expected to be between INR 2,000 crores and 3,000 crores within this year. Thus, masks made of Khadi are more cost-effective, breathable, re-usable, bio-degradable, and environment friendly due to which the demand will be large and the export market of India is likely to grow at a much fast pace and is set to go global. KVIC is exporting Khadi cotton masks to foreign countries like the US, Dubai, Mauritius, and several Middle Eastern and European countries through Indian embassies and missions abroad. With the growth of the pandemic there is also growth in the global fashion in the mask Industry and with this India’s manufacturing market for Khadi products along with the record sale of Khadi products is expected to soar high.
Khadi has emerged as a source to help the poor living in villages to earn their livelihood. Promoting the use of Khadi and record sale of khadi products will boost the Indian economy. Mahatma Gandhi through Khadi took the freedom movement to the masses and believed it can make India self-reliant which resonates with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the spirit of Self-reliant India. The Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a statutory body under the administrative control of India that has employed millions of producers of Khadi and Khadi institutions across India.
The hardships of the Covid pandemic have taught us to value the most important aspect of life that is, compassion, care, and creativity. The small artisans if supported with an adequate supply chain and skills will create wonders in growing the Indian economy. Even during this time, various Non-Governmental Organisations like Aatmnirbhar Sena were able to engage the women workforce in the mask manufacturing unit more than ever. Stressing on the importance of Khadi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, ” I feel proud to recall my appeal to the countrymen to buy Khadi. I had also appealed to support the country’s handloom workers. In a very short period, the demand and sale of Khadi and handloom have created a record. You have also made Khadi a big brand. It was a small step, but the results have been outstanding’’. The outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic have created a business opportunity for Khadi which is the most sustainable fabric and have always stood the test of time.