Khadi and Mill-cloth / Silk
"If therefore we merely use mill-made cloth, we simply deprive the poor of what they need, at least increase the price of mill- made cloth. The only way therefore to encourage swadeshi is to manufacture more cloth. Mills cannot grow like mushrooms. We must, therefore, fall back upon hand-woven and hand-spun yarn. Yarn has never perhaps been so dear as it is today and mills are making fabulous profits out of yarn. He, therefore, who hand-spins a yard of yarn, helps production and cheapens its price."
(Young India, 28-4-1920; 17:353.)
"Letters are coming in from everywhere telling me that greedy persons have been selling foreign or mill-made cloth by passing it off as khadi and they also put up the price of such cloth. This does not surprise me. When the entire system of government is based on fraud, what else can we expect from people? Go where you will, to law-courts, shops or hospitals, even to legislatures everywhere you will see cheating. Non-cooperation is intended to save us from this. Our non-co-operation is directed not against individuals but against their misdeeds. There is, however, always the danger, in trying to save ourselves from one kind of sin, our being caught in another. And so long as we like to have cloths like that made in the mills and so long as our cloth is not woven before our eyes, so long the danger of being cheated will remain. The easiest safeguard against this is that every village should produce its own khadi and that people in the cities should buy only such khadi as does not look like mill-made cloth, and that too preferably stamped with a Congress mark. Even if all these precautions are taken, there is no guarantee that there would be no danger of fraud."
(Navajivan, 7-9-1921; 21:52.)
"If thirty crores of people will, if the core members of the congress will, I am sure that we can boycott foreign cloth and manufacture enough for our wants during this month. Three conditions are necessary: we must discard all foreign cloth, do with the least possible cloth during the transition stage, and get all the khadi we need woven by the village weaver out of yarn spun by ourselves or our neighbours."
(Young India, 6-10-1921; 21:254.)
"We try needlessly to encourage the use of mill cloth, and it is also a mistake to go running to buy it. Indian mill cloth will always be in demand. If, by our actions, we tempt the mill-owners the quality of cloth is bound to deteriorate and the traders in such cloth, who are concerned only with their profits, will be tempted to put up the prices. We cannot expect the dealers to conduct their business for the good of the country till the people themselves have that good at heart. Which is easier of the two, that I should put up with the discomfort of wearing khadi, - if discomfort it is and if its price is high, pay that price; or that the millowners should forgo their profits of crores of rupees? It is foolish to expect any big sacrifices from the millowners. They will be the last, not the first to wake up, and we should conduct our struggle on that assumption. To blame them on this ground is to blame human nature. In their place we would certainly behave in much the same way. Those of us, therefore, who have accepted swadeshi as a religious duty should not use mill-made cloth...
"In short, khadi imported from Japan or produced in our mills is not khadi but something which merely looks like it, and we must keep away from it . . .
"Once foreign cloth has disappeared completely from their midst, the women will not take long to catch up. But even men have not ceased to care for outward show. They have not yet completely overcome their fondness for fine cloth. Dhotis, for example, they must always have mill-made, and the heaviness of khadi seems an inconvenience. How can we expect anything from women when men themselves have not completely turned away from such things? There are, thus, many obstacles in our path of swadeshi. When we have removed them all, we are sure to see the sun of swaraj rising on the horizon."
(Navajivan, 6-10-1921; 21:254, 255, 256.)
"I personally see no necessity of selling silk to make khadi popular. One can, however, understand and condone the use of silk borders to beautify khadi. . .
"Khadi can and should have only one meaning, viz, hand- woven cloth made from hand-spun thread. Silk-thread, just fibre and wool woven in this manner may be called, if we like, silk, jute and woollen khadi, respectively. But it would be ridiculous for anyone dressed in khadi silk to claim that he was encouraging khadi."
(Navajivan, 20-4-1924; 23:463.)
"Foreign cloth must be totally banished from the Indian market, if India is to become an economically free nation, if her peasantry is to be freed from chronic pauperism, if that peasantry is to find honourable employment during times of famine and such other visitations. Protection of her staple industry is her birthright. I would therefore protect the Indian mills against foreign competition even though for the time being it may result in mulcting the poor people. Such mulcting can take place only if the mill-owners be so unpatriotic as to raise prices owing to the monopoly they may secure. I have therefore no hesitation in advocating the repeal of cotton excise duties and imposition of a prohibitive import duty.
"Similarly and consistently I would protect hand-spun khaddar against the home mills. And I know that if only foreign competition is avoided khaddar will be protected without difficulty. Foreign cloth will be banished when public opinion becomes effectively powerful. The same power will insure the protection of khaddar against mills. But my strong belief is that khaddar will come to its own without any unseemly war with the mills. But, whilst khaddar has only a limited number of votaries, they, the votaries, must necessarily preach khaddar in preference to and to the exclusion of yarn and cloth manufactured even in our mills. To give the option is to kill khaddar."
(Young India, 28-8-1924; 25:43.)
"I have purposely kept the precious samples in front of me in order to warn me of my duty not to be angry against the mill- owners in question in spite of their unpatriotic conduct. I know that they could have conducted their trade without entering into competition with khadi. They could at least have refrained from miscalling their coarse cloth 'khadi' when they well knew that 'khadi' was a word used to signify hand-spun cotton cloth. But two wrongs cannot make one right. My satyagrahi spirit tells me that I may not retaliate. I may not imitate their unpatriotic conduct. I know that, if lovers of khadi remain true to the faith, hand-spun khadi will thrive against all odds."
(Young India, 28-8-1924; 25:43-44.)
"If to make khadi a practical proposition is interpreted to mean that it should compete with mill-made cloth, I think that is almost impossible. Dharma need never enter into such competition. Mill-owners may give away their cloth gratis just to kill khadi, but can we do the same with khadi? There certainly is competition in trade when commodities are offered, (virtually) for nothing. I am willing to listen to all criticism of the work there. And I am eager to remove all recognizable faults."
(Letter to Kantilal Parekh from Sabarmati Ashram written on 11-6-1926; 30:565.)
"... I want the mill industry to prosper - only I do n t want it to prosper at the expense of the country. On the contrary if the interests of the country demand that the industry should go, I should let it go without the slightest compunction. The millowners who support me understand my attitude and many want this movement to prosper, even if its prosperity should mean their loss.
"And you ask how those who produce mill cloth may wear anything else. Do you know that in Manchester the manufacturers do not wear their own products? You need not mind your inability to use cloth produced by your own mills. The good Duchess of Sutherland saw the miserable plight of the poor islanders of Hebrides and placed spinning-wheels and looms at their disposal. The citizens of Manchester, including millowners, do wear the handspun stuffs prepared by the Hebrides people, even at three times the cost of the mill stuff."
(Speech on Khadi in Amalner on 12-2-1927; 33:68-69.)
"But even if the mills were to play the game, Congressmen will not need to use mill-cloth or to advertise it. The mills playing the game means their advertising and selling khadi, their assimilation of the khadi spirit, their recognition of the predominance of khadi over mill-cloth.
"It must be definitely realized that mills alone, even if they wished, cannot in our generation displace foreign cloth. Therefore there must be in the country an agency that would devote its attention, so far as boycott of foreign cloth is concerned, exclusively to khadi propaganda. That agency has been the Congress since 1920. Khadi production and khadi propaganda act at once as a check upon the greed of mills and also, strange as it may appear, as an indirect but very effective encouragement to mills in their struggle against foreign competition. Exclusive devotion to khadi on the part of Congressmen enables khadi to find a foothold and enables mills effectively to carry on their operations where the Congress has as yet no influence worth the name. Hence it is that the mills have never resented the khadi propaganda. On the contrary many of their agents have assured me that they have benefited by the khadi propaganda inasmuch as it has created an anti-foreign-cloth atmosphere enabling them to sell their comparatively coarser-count cloth. Stop exclusive khadi propaganda, play with mill-cloth and you kill khadi and in the long run you kill even mill-cloth, for it cannot by itself stand foreign competition. In a competition between indigenous and foreign mills the one disturbing factor of healthy mass sentiment will be wholly wanting, if there was no khadi spirit."
(Young India, 10-5-1928; 36:301.)
". . . And I have repeatedly shown in these pages that there can be no comparison between khadi and mill-cloth even as there can be none between the home-made chapati, however costly it may be and troublesome to make, and cheap, easily prepared machine-made biscuit. Mill-cloth needs no protection or patronage from the public in the sense that khadi does. Indian mill-cloth gets preference as it ought to when khadi is unavailable at any cost, when machine-made cloth becomes a necessity and when the choice lies only between foreign cloth and swadeshi mill- cloth. Khadi it is clear must displace both. Khadi has no established market like mill-cloth. It has not even become as yet a bazaar article. Every yard of khadi bought means at least eighty-five per cent in the mouths of the starving and the poor ones of India. Every yard of mill-cloth bought means more than 75 per cent in the pockets of the capitalists and less than 25 per cent in the pockets of the labourers who are never helpless, who are well able to take care of themselves, and who never starve or need starve in the sense that the helpless millions starve for whose sake khadi has been conceived."
(Young India, 4-10-1928; 37:330.)
"My conviction is that a time must come and that within a few months when the mills will have to make their choice and accept the terms that were offered to them last year. But it will wholly depend upon the determination of the people to boycott foreign cloth at any cost and replace it by genuine khadi. Khadi has no limits. For we have millions of human spindles and lakhs of human looms. The one thing needful is the will to do it."
(Young India, 7-3-1929; 40:96-97.)
"I regard the question of competing with cloth made in textile mills - whether foreign or Indian - as a temporary and futile one. When farmers store their own cotton, carry on all the activities up to that of spinning in their own homes, they will certainly get their own khadi made by paying the proper wage to the weaver and not touch mill-made cloth. The economics of khadi is unique. It has a soul whereas the economics of textile mills is soulless. Hence the two differ in kind. Just as the waters of the ocean and those of the Ganges being qualitatively different cannot be compared to each other, similarly there can be no comparison between cloth produced in textile mills and handmade cloth produced in villages."
(Navajivan, 1-9-1929; 41:346.)
". . . But the khadi propaganda has produced in the people a love for swadeshi on a scale unknown before, and it has resulted in preference being given by the poor villagers to indigenous mill-cloth over foreign cloth. But the reader may note what many mills have done to khadi. They have unscrupulously and unfairly resorted to the manufacture of coarse cloth, and have not felt ashamed even to label it khadi with the pictures of the charkha printed upon that spurious stuff."
(Young India, 26-9-1929; 41:471.)
"If khadi is not constantly kept in view, the result will be that the price of cloth made in mills in India — not Indian mills — will keep increasing and the boycott will never become effective.
1. In this age, no amount of effort would make it possible for mills to make cloth sufficient to meet the country's needs.
2. The concern of mills generally is, and will be, profits.
3. The Government can, at any time, suppress the mills.
4. The present trend indicates that mills in this country are passing under foreign ownership and control.
5. As mills are dependent upon foreign machines and foreign techniques, they could, all of a sudden, be faced with a difficult situation.
While on the contrary:
1. If the sentiment for khadi becomes widespread in the country, we can produce today as much khadi as we require.
2. Khadi does not require as much capital as mills do.
3. It does not require as much technical skill.
4. It may be said that potentially there are thirty crores of labourers employed in the production of khadi.
5. All the implements required for the production of khadi are made in the country.
6. Khadi cannot be suppressed either by the Government or any other power.
7. Khadi can be produced in every home.
8. It is not necessary to make khadi at one place and send it to another. At present it does have to travel to some extent because the sentiment for khadi has not gained much ground."
(Navajivan, 6-4-1930; 43:195.)
"The Congress toleration of mills is based on the belief that the mills can serve a useful purpose during the transition stage. Immediate exclusion of foreign cloth becomes easier through the indigenous mills if they work in sympathy with the movement. It is easier for khaddar to deal and compete with the indigenous mills alone than to do so with them plus English, Japanese, Italian and other mills. The increase in the number of indigenous mills need not frighten khaddarites. The increase is no doubt proof that the economic influence of khaddar is not yet fully felt. When khaddar becomes universal, many mills may find their occupation gone. It is needless to speculate whether khaddar will obtain such a hold on the people. It will depend upon the faithfulness of the workers. There is no flaw in the reasoning applied to khaddar. It is merely a question of giving a true education to the millions of villagers, of changing national taste, of realizing the tremendous power of the wheel to banish pauperism from the land. It is no small thing to be able to show a way the adoption of which will be an insurance against starvation and its attendant results. . .
"As the author of the revival of khaddar I must confess that it never entered my head that I should wish for high prices of mill-manufactures for the protection of khaddar. It is one thing to seek protection against killing competition, wholly another to wish for higher prices of commodities produced by a few for many even for the protection of an analogous industry. Khaddar economics is wholly different from the ordinary. The latter takes no note of the human factor. The former wholly concerns itself with the human. The latter is frankly selfish, the former necessarily unselfish. Competition and therefore prices are eliminated from the conception of khaddar."
(Young India, 16-7-1931; 47:143-44.)
"My faith in khadi is, if possible, stronger than ever from the moral, economic and national (in its widest sense) standpoint; there is no comparison between khadi and mill-cloth, even indigenous. Exploitation of the poor through mill-cloth or mill- yarn is an impossibility in the case of khadi. Exploitation of the poor through mill-cloth and mill-yarn is inevitable in some shape or form, be it ever so mild. The use of genuine khadi constitutes some (be it ever so small) automatic return to the poor for their continuous exploitation by the comparatively rich and can in the aggregate become a mighty return, though never adequate, to the masses living in the villages. . .
"Khadi represents human values; mill-cloth represents mere metallic value."
(Harijan, 9-2-1934; 57:133-34.)
". . . khadi can give employment to crores whereas silk hardly to more than a few thousand. Khadi is a necessity for both the poor and the rich. Silk is a necessity for none but a few who, in order to nourish a religious sentiment, insist on silk garments on certain occasions. Hence when it is a question of choice between silk and khadi, naturally those who have the welfare of starving millions at heart will always choose khadi. . .
". . . let it be remembered that if cotton khadi lives but silk dies, the hands left idle due to the death of silk can easily take up cotton spinning and weaving, but if silk displaces cotton, it cannot employ the crores that will be without occupation or chance of it due to the death of cotton khadi. It seems to me, therefore, to be the obvious duty of all lovers of Daridranarayana to prefer cotton khadi always when the question of making a choice confronts them. It will be economical in the long run to pay for the present dearer prices for fine cotton khadi than for the corresponding fine silk wear."
(Harijan; 7-11-1936; 64:8-9.)
"There is no doubt that khadi cannot compete with mill- cloth, it was never meant to. If the people will not understand or appreciate the law governing khadi, it will never be universal. It must then remain the fad of monied people and cranks. And if it is to be merely that, the labours of a huge organization like the A.I.S.A. must mean a waste of effort, if not something much worse. . .
"At present we are labouring under a heavy handicap. Cotton production has been centralized for the sake of Lancashire and, if you will, for the sake of Indian mills. Prices of cotton are determined by the prices in foreign land. When the production of cotton is distributed in accordance with the demands of khadi economics, cotton prices would not fluctuate and, in any case, will be, in effect, lower than today. When the people, either through State protection or through voluntary effort, have cultivated the habit of using only khadi, they will never think of it in terms of money, even as millions of vegetarians do not compare the prices of flesh foods with those of non-flesh foods. They will starve rather than take flesh foods even though they may be offered free."
(Harijan, 10-12-1938; 68:173-74.)
"Uncertified khadi means deprivation of the spinner's rightful wage and general injury to khadi work. That khadi and [those] articles made of khadi are certified which are sold by dealers certified by the All-India Spinners' Association."
(In a statement to the Press in Seagaon on 25-1-1940; 71:140.)
"You ask about woollens and silks. Who wears them? Can the poor do so? Why should we take all the trouble for a few rich people? These things cannot become universal. We may certainly keep stocks of woollens and silks in khadi bhandars as we keep other things there but we must understand that that is no part of our work."
(Discussion with the Charkha Sangh Workers on 27/28-11- 1945; 82:123.)
"Uncertified khadi dealers are a powerful menace to khadi whether from the standpoint of the poor man or of non-violence. For the dealer knows only his own pocket and nothing else matters to him. Of course, he goes to the weaver and the spinner and makes all kinds of promises, not knowing that if he killed the A.I.S.A. he would kill himself."
(Harijan, 12-5-1946; 84:94.)