Economics of Khadi
"Khadi is only seemingly dear. I have pointed out in these pages that it is wrong to compare khadi with other cloth by comparing the prices of given lengths. The cheapness of khadi consists in the revolution of one's taste. The wearing of khadi replaces the conventional idea of wearing clothes for ornament by that of wearing them for use. Opinion is divided as to the want of durability of khadi. Division of opinion is based probably on difference of experience. Different experience is inevitable so long as we have not arrived at uniformity in spinning."
(Young India, 7-8-1924; 24:525.)
"To have good slivers, it is certainly essential that the cotton should have been properly carded but it is also necessary that the rolling of slivers should be done with equal care. If in making a sliver the fibre is merely rolled into a cylindrical shape anyhow, even well-carded cotton will be wasted.
"If cotton is spread out evenly on a hollow board and, with a thin stick placed over it, rolled with one's palm five or six times, the fibres get stretched out properly and form a roll to make a fine sliver. Only the person who spins with such a sliver knows the pleasure that spinning gives. If one or two more turns are given with the palm, the result will be still better. On the contrary, if only one or two turns are given, the sliver so made will not yield a well-twisted and even thread in spinning. In such slivers the fibres just stick together somehow and the thread, therefore, can never be even."
(Navajivan, 3-5-1925; 27:24-5.)
"Hand-woven cloth made of hand-spun yarn is of course khadi, however fine it may be. It may be made of cotton, silk or even of wool. One should wear whichever of these one happens to find convenient. The khadi from Andhra is very fine. In Assam, one can get some khadi made of silk. Woollen khadi is made in Kathiawar. In other words, the only criterion of khadi is its being hand-spun and hand-woven. Ordinarily, hand-spun khadi is found to be coarse and thick, hence, some people erroneously believe that khadi can only be of this type, though in fact fine khadi of sixty to eighty count yarn is also made. Nevertheless, those who have used thick khadi know that the touch of coarse rough khadi is soft to the body and, being rough, it affords better protection to the skin."
(Navajivan, 25-10-1925; 28:386.)
"The manager of the Khadi Bhandar, Princess Street, run in Bombay by the All-India Khadi Board (now All-India Spinners' Association) has sent me a copy of his neatly printed price list. It shows the progress made by khaddar. The total sales during the four years of its existence amount to Rs. 8,30,329. The highest sales were in 1922-23, viz., Rs. 2,45,515, the lowest during the current year, viz., Rs. 1,68,280. It has been suggested that the sales went up in 1922-23 because I was in jail. People thought and rightly that the more khaddar they used the nearer was swaraj. And swaraj meant my discharge. The flaw, however, consisted in the reasoning that khaddar was only a temporary necessity. Whereas, the fact is that it is as necessary for all times as native food and native air are."
(Young India, 12-11-1925; 28:446.)
"I once more urge the workers in every province to be prompt in their returns. If the All-India Spinners' Association is to become an efficient organization covering every village of India, it must have the disciplined and intelligent co-operation of all its workers."
(Young India, 27-5-1926; 30:486.)
"The remarkable fact about the growing cheapness of khadi is that generally the reduction in prices has not meant a corresponding reduction in wages of carders, spinners and weavers, but has been due to better knowledge and greater efficiency."
(Young India, 18-11-1926; 32:60.)
"In my opinion, by honest and able organization, we can create a universal demand for khadi,
(a) if those who are engaged in khadi production will pay attention to the manufacture of stronger and more even yarn equal at least to the mill-spun yarn;
(b) if they will also study the tastes of the people and produce sufficient variety of khadi;
(c) if by efficiency in other directions they bring down the price of khadi;
(d) if those who are engaged in the distribution of khadi will gain greater knowledge of the tastes of the people and will learn the art of selling;
(e) if both the producers and the sellers will realize that they must give the maximum of efficiency with the minimum of wages and that self-sacrifice is the one imperative condition of successful organization of khadi on a universal basis."
(Young India, 21-4-1927; 33:248.)
"Indeed the economic and the philanthropic side of khadi is so overwhelmingly important that it is a wonder that Rajas and Maharajas have not given the movement the support that it deserves. Everybody agrees that millions of villagers require a supplementary occupation. Scores of paper schemes are being hawked about the country for achieving village reconstruction. But not one scheme has the universal application that khadi has. And so far as I am aware, not one scheme is being tried on the scale that khadi is being tried. It is not a small achievement to be able to show that the khadi scheme is at work in at least 1,500 villages."
(Young India, 30-6-1927; 34:78.)
"Not everyone can run a khadi .bhandar successfully, not even everyone who has been in charge of a cloth shop. A manager of a khadi bhandar should know the different varieties of khadi, and should know how to distinguish between genuine khadi and imitations. He should also know the art of presenting khadi to the public in an inviting manner, and above all, he has to be scrupulously honest."
(Young India, 11-8-1927; 34:310.)
"To pay cash for khadi that the people want is the least protection that khadi is entitled to. Managers of sale depots must not be afraid of losing custom if they do not give credit. They must rely upon their ability to carry on propaganda in their neighbourhood in favour of khadi for commanding cash sales."
(Young India, 7-6-1928; 36:371.)
"We must distribute production and centralize sales for the time being. We must try the experiment of pooling prices of khadi produced in various centres to bring down the average. Look at the figures of mill khadi . . . What does it indicate? A revolution in the people's taste. They are prepared to make a sacrifice. They ask for coarse cloth. But they are being foully deceived by the millowners who do not hesitate to exploit their patriotic sentiment."
(Young India, 27-12-1928; 38:246.)
"Khaddar is not dear at any price. If a man dear and near to you is imprisoned, will you not try your utmost to set him free at any cost? A spirit of sacrifice is necessary if you want to attain swaraj. Khaddar should be used with the spirit of sacrifice. In saying that khaddar is dear, it means that you want swaraj without any price. Foreign cloth is cheap, you say. Even if it is a free gift it is not worth having. Behind it there is the evil of your bondage and your weakness. Get rid of it and depend on your own self for your clothing."
(The Hindu, 27-4-1929; 40:278.)
"Khadi as conceived for the use of millions does not cost more than foreign cloth for the simple reason that the millions must, if khadi is to be used by them, be their own manufacturers and consumers. These pages have shown that in Bardoli, Bijolia and several other places khadi is being so manufactured and consumed even as in millions of homes people cook and eat their own food. It is possible to demonstrate, in terms of metal, that rice or bread cooked in a few factories would cost less than they cost today in the millions of homes. But nobody on that account would dare suggest that the millions should cease to cook and should send their raw rice and wheat to be cooked in centralized factories."
(Young India, 19-12-1929; 42:292.)
"If, I can have my way and if people co-operate, khadi will always be sold at a fixed price. The price of cotton may vary, but if the women who spin and the weavers are paid at uniform rates in their respective provinces and the rates of payment for the other processes are also uniform, there should be no difficulty in having a fixed price for every variety of khadi. Since we do not possess the requisite honesty, efficiency of organization and sympathy for the poor, the prices of khadi have been changing. However, anyone who takes the slightest interest in khadi knows that in every province the prices have declined from what they were ten years ago. . .
". . . The quality of spinning has improved and, in consequence, the weavers' work has become easier. This has made it possible to reduce the rate of payment to weavers without reducing their total earnings. It has been possible to bring about this happy result of reduction in prices because a philanthropic body is organizing khadi work. Thanks to this fact, the quality of khadi has progressively improved and the prices have come down. There is considerable scope for still further improvement in quality. . ."
(Navajivan, 7-6-1931; 46:341.)
"Khaddar in a sense is purely an economic proposition. A khaddar organization must be a business concern before everything else. The democratic principle, therefore, cannot apply to it. Democracy necessarily means a conflict of will and ideas, involving sometimes a war to the knife between these different ideas. There can be no room for such conflict within a business organization. Imagine parties, groups and the like in a business concern. It must break to pieces under their weight. But a khadi organization is more than a business concern. It is a philanthropic institution designed to serve demos. Such an institution cannot be governed by popular fancy. There is no room in it for personal ambition."
(Harijan, 21-9-1934; 58:353.)
"The moral is obvious: the simpler the khadi, the larger the amount that goes into the pockets of the poorest workers. The fancy work no doubt makes khadi popular in homes which could not otherwise look at it. I may add also that there are some popular varieties of saris and dhotis manufactured for poor people. On these no management charges are at all added. And there is no such thing as net profit in any of the numerous stores managed by the A.I.S.A. The management charges are added in order to make khadi self-supporting."
(Harijan, 12-10-1934; 59:166.)
"There is no reason why a spinner in Bihar should get less than her sister in Gujarat. No doubt prices vary in different provinces because the standard of living varies. But the Association cannot afford to take things as they are. It has to change them, if they are unjust. There is no reason why the price of one hour's labour in spinning should be less than one in weaving. There is more skill involved in spinning than in simple weaving. Simple weaving is a purely mechanical process. Simplest spinning requires the cunning of the hand. Yet the spinner gets one pie per hour against the weaver's minimum of six; the carder too does better, almost as well as the weaver. There are historical reasons for this state of things. But they are not just merely because they are historical. Time has come for the Association to equalize if not also to stabilize the prices of all labour regulated by it."
(Harijan, 6-7-1935; 61:233.)
"The custom for fine khadi has fallen off even before the expected or rather threatened rise in prices. When it falls further, if it does, it will do so not because of the rise in prices but undoubtedly because of want of love or humanity in the buyer. Humanity does not search for low prices in a spirit of bargain.
The humane in man, even in his purchases, seeks opportunities of service, and therefore wants to know first not the price of the article of purchase but the condition of its producers, and makes purchases in a manner that serves most the most needy and deserving."
(Harijan, 2-11-1935; 62:85-86.)
"The efficiency earnings do not directly affect the sale price. If anything, the efficiency of spinners improves the quality of khadi. The direct increase in the wages undoubtedly raises the prices, but its burden is broken by the improvement in quality. Then the increase is so judiciously regulated as to affect the poorest buyer not at all or very slightly. I have no manner of doubt that if only the workers will themselves be more efficient, more vigilant and more faithful, they will hasten the day when spinners can easily earn eight annas per day of eight hours' work without involving a phenomenal rise in the sale price. More scientific knowledge must improve the capacity of hand-gins, carding-bows and spinning-wheels."
(Harijan, 17-4-1937; 65:90-91.)
"City people should know that ceaseless effort is being made to evoke greater skill among the artisans so that the whole of the increase in the wages may not fall upon khadi. Overhead charges are also being constantly reduced. Skill overhead increases with experience. But sixteen times increase in the wages of spinners cannot all be brought about merely by increased efficiency. Therefore some rise in the price of khadi is inevitable with the increase in the wages. This is being unequally distributed among the different varieties so that the heaviest rise will take place in the khadi that is purchased by the monied classes. Everything that can be done to ease the burden on poor buyers is being done and will be done by the Association.
"But khadi-wearers should know that the economics of khadi are different from the ordinary economics which are based on competition in which patriotism, sentiment and humanity play little or no part. Khadi economics are based on patriotism sentiment and humanity. . .
"The question of cheapness mainly affects the city-dwellers. If all of them, rich and poor, took to khadi, they could hardly use more than ten per cent of the possible production of khadi. The rest has to be used by the producers themselves who are villagers. The question of price does not affect them materially, if at all. It is true that khadi has not penetrated the villages to the extent expected. During the transition period, therefore, it has to depend upon the patriotic spirit of city-dwellers both rich and poor. Those who believe in the message of khadi will not consider any price too dear for khadi. It is the only real insurance against famine and unemployment."
(Harijan, 23-7-1938; 67:198-99.)
". . . what I wish to consider here is the reason for the sales not keeping pace with the production. Propaganda undoubtedly has its place. But more than propaganda is wanted scientific research. There is no doubt that our people use on an average 15 yards of cloth per head per year. There is no doubt that this cloth costs the country a figure approaching 100 crores of rupees, meaning less than three rupees per head, counting India's population at 35 crores. It is easy enough to say that the sales can be effected if the State protects khadi. That khadi deserves protection is in my opinion a self-proved proposition. But have the khadi workers who have the qualifications found out whether we have done all we could to command sales even without protection?. . .
"It is a shame that we who grow more cotton than we need should have to send it abroad for being turned into cloth for us. It is equally a shame for us that we who have in our villages unlimited unused labour, and can easily supply ourselves with village instruments of manufacture, should send our cotton to the mills of our cities for it to be manufactured into cloth for our use. We know the history of the shame. But we have not yet discovered the sure way to deal with the double shame beyond a patriotic appeal to the public.”
(Harijan, 26-8-1939; 70:104-105.)
“I have not hesitated to say, and I wish to repeat, that everyone who spins for waraj brings waraj nearer by so many yards. Think what it means if millions were to take part in this grand effort. Let no one seek for a parallel in history. History has no record of a non-violent effort made for a nation’s freedom. Bona fide non-violent effort presupposes the adoption of unique weapons. It is the violence within the breast and the newness of the technique which stand in the way of an appreciation of the charkha.”
(Harijan, 10-2-1940; 71:183.)
“To understand the inner meaning of khadi one has to know why it has to be turned out by hand and not by power machinery. Why should innumerable hands be employed when a single person can manipulate an engine which can produce the same amount of cloth in far less time? If khadi has to be produced by hand, why not by the takli only? And if the takli, why not the bamboo taklil And if we could get the necessary work by suspending yarn by means of a stone, why even taklil Such questions are perfectly natural. To find proper answers to all such is a necessary part of khadi research.”
(Harijan, 1-3-1942; 75:353.)
"We want to restrict our attention to only one of the seven lakhs of villages. We want the same independence for that village as we want for any other of the seven lakh villages and the world at large. So, our villages should at least become self-reliant as far as food and clothing are concerned.
"In such villages there cannot be any need for metal or any other imposed currency for mutual transactions. Our standard should be a rural product, which everyone can make, which can be stored and the price of which does not fluctuate daily. What can this be? It can neither be soap, nor oil, nor vegetables. Thus, after enumerating and eliminating all the things only yarn remains. Everyone can produce it. There is always a demand for it. It can be stored well. If we can introduce yarn currency in the villages, they will make great progress and become self-reliant very soon. This is not an attempt to enumerate all the advantages of yarn currency. I want to tell you only what it means and how it will function. . .
"In such a scheme every house can become a mint and can make as much money (yarn) as it wants."
(Harijan Sevak, 3-5-1942; 76:42-43.)
"My experience tells me that if khadi is to become universal, both in cities and in villages, it should be made available only in exchange of yarn . . .
"I hope that as days go by everyone will himself insist on buying khadi only in exchange of yarn. If this does not happen and if they give yarn grudgingly swaraj through non-violence is impossible. Surely some effort has to be made for swaraj. It cannot be had by mere begging. A certain kind of freedom can of course be obtained on the strength of the rifle, but it will not be real swaraj and I for one am not interested in it. . .
"What I am taking about relates to the crores of the starving people. If they are to live, and live well, the charkha will have to be central and spinning undertaken voluntarily also by those who do not need to spin. The weapons of non-violence must not be adopted by people because they have no other alternative. Therefore to my mind the rule of yarn for khadi which has been introduced has to exist and increase in its application."
(Gram Udyog Patrika, Vol. I, pp. 352-354; 81:55-57.)
"It is my firm view that we should demand yarn for the khadi required by the Congress. It calls for tact and efficiency."
(Letter written to Shrikrisnadas Jaju on 28-12-1945; 82:293.)
"If we believe that swaraj hangs by the hand-spun thread, then it is clear that the value of yarn will be far greater than gold and silver currency. Constructive workers are not exempt from spinning. How can there be any such exemption from yajnal Spinning is the necessary yajna for everyone."
(Harijan, 28-4-1946; 84:34.)
". . . Just as gold and silver emerge as coins from a mint, so khadi alone should emerge from a yarn bank. Not until such time as this happens will the defects in hand-spun yam be removed and the quality of khadi improved beyond expectation. This work cannot be accomplished by compulsion. Khadi workers must be selfless, true and of a scientific mind for the easy, quick and voluntary achievement of this noble end.
"To achieve it is the real goal of the Charkha Sangh. It will not matter if, in working up to this end, all the sales bhandars have to be closed and khadi-wearers reduced to a handful. Even so there will be no shame attaching to the endeavour. On the other hand, if khadi is sold as a symbol of hypocrisy and untruth it will drag the names of both the Charkha Sangh and the Congress in the mud and khadi will no longer be able either to deliver swaraj or be the mainstay of the poor. Unbelievers will ask: 'Then why take so much trouble over khadi? Why not let it remain as one of the many occupations of village India, instead of being a fad of non-violence?' Those who are khadi-mad must learn the secret of the science of khadi and be prepared even to die for it and thereby prove that it is the true symbol of nonviolent swaraj."
(Harijan, 7-7-1946; 84:381-82.)
"It is to be hoped that every khadi bhandar will become a model of service and thereby not only raise itself but also maintain the honour that khadi carries."
(Harijan, 29-9-1946; 85:355.)