The Future of Gramabhikukh Khadi

By R.K. Patil


1. Elsewhere in this issue is published the statement of the Khadi Mission issued on the 24th March after a two days discussion. The purpose of this article is to examine the difficulties in the way of Gramabhimukh Khadi and indicate how it can be made possible. Of course the agency for this will be the Khadi institutions, the heads of which had gathered at Paunar Ashram and had a thorough discussion of the subject on the 23rd and 24th March: Before coming to the main question, I can not refrain from referring to two remarks one by Mahatma Gandhi and the other by Vinoba. While opening one of the Khadi and Village Industries Exhibitions, which used to be held regularly along with the annual session of the Indian National Congress in the pre-independence period, Mahatma Gandhi said as follows :

  1. "I know that after my death, you will burn my Khadi from the housetops."
    The other remark by Vinoba has a special reference to me. In the course of the various discussions on Khadi that I had with him he had remarked that "Khadi to me was like red rag to a bull." The readers should read this article after fully understanding the realising the implications of these two statements.
  2. Before discussing the difficulties in the way of Gramabhimukh Khadi.
    Let us examine the suggestions made in the statement to achieve the object of Gramabhimukh Khadi. They are as follows:
    • The existing institutions should setup Common Service Centres and training facilities for training promoters to organise new institutions to take up Khadi and Village Industries activities in hitherto untouched areas so that intensive area development on self reliant basis for full employment through Khadi and Village Industries become possible.
    • Every production and sale centre of Khadi should establish, close contact through seminars and one day camps without least 100 new customers of Khadi.
    • The workers of the institution should be reoriented in the philosophy of Khadi so that they understand better its relevance and importance in the present National and International context.
    • The bigger institutions should treat the smaller institutions in brotherly spirit and guide them in developing Khadi work.
    • The experience, gained in the areas where Gramabhimukh Khadi has been developed should be made the basis of work in other areas.
    • Experiment with the application of power in the spinning process should be conducted in those areas where Gram bhavana has been created.
    • The freedom and initiative of the Khadi institution and their workers should be preserved.
    • The major question before the Nation of providing employment to the large number of unemployed in the rural and urban areas can only be solved through the Khadi and Village Industries programmes. These can alone provide gainful employment, in-crease production and relieve the distress of the unemployed.
    It will be observed that all the above recommendations, except (5) and (6) are based on creating a new awareness amongst the workers of the Khadi Institutions so that they can achieve the objective of Gramabhimukh Khadi by putting in better and more sincere efforts. No. 5 deals with the experience of those areas where the objective has been achieved. I fail to recall now, what these special circumstances were which resulted in the ideal of Gramabhimukh Khadi being achieved in those areas. These certainly can be utilized elsewhere. No. 6 deals with the use of power in spinning. Experiments with power applied to the spinning process should be carried out in the interests of decentralization, an making Khadi more dependant on local resources than on the commission and state Governments as at present.
  3. It has been our experience that the spinners engaged in Khadi spinning on the Ambar Charkha or the traditional Charkha do not use Khadi, though it is produced from the yarn which he or she spins, and which provides him with employment. Why is this so? The reason is that he or she looks upon spinning as a source of employment and sees no other value, moral or economic, in the work he or she is doing. Besides exhypothei, she is poor, needs employment and therefore is inclined to buy the cheapest cloth, which is available in the market. This is mill cloth. Besides Khadi cloth is coarser, and Leaviec than mill cloth, and has no other special qualities, which would give it an additional value. This is not the case with products of other village industries like Ghani oil, hand pounded rice, hand processed flour. All these can be shown to be of purer quality and more nutritive. In the absence of any of these qualities, one fails to see how the spinners can be persuaded to use Khadi, and this is precisely the experience of all these years.
    Unless therefore some of these difficulties are removed, or new values can be introduced in Khadi, it would be completely unrealistic to expect any change in thepresent situation relating to the production and consumption of Khadi. As at present Khadi will continue to be Bhandarabhimukh and not Gramabhimukh, when it is produced.
  4. There is however one aspect of this question which has yet to be considered. What about the aspect of self-sufficiency, i.e. supplying your own needs through your own efforts? This is how Khadi developed in the latter stages. Even originally, Khadi production was meant to supplement internal production, whose supply was appreciably reduced by the boycott offering cloth. Of course if a man has spare time which he cannot use otherwise, he can certainly utilize it by producing something for his own use. That would be a good use of his spare time, and also some saving for he would be compelled to buy from the market something which he would be producing himself. But this would not be the case if he has an avenue of employment, which gives him enough for his needs. In that case he would prefer to buy from the market, instead of trying to produce those needs himself, unless he can produce them at an appreciably less cost.
    Thus the person who has some sort of employment would like to buy his necessities like food and cloth from the wages that he would get instead of trying to produce them himself. With market mechanism reaching all over the 5 lac villages in India production for self sufficiency, specially of articles like cloth, which can be bought easily from the market, would not and may not be produced in the villages. In an order of priority food production will of cloth. It would however be otherwise if individual property in land is abolished and the whole land in the village becomes a social asset. It would then be possible or some people to engage themselves in agriculture and produce their requirement of food through agriculture while others engaged in production of cloth and other articles by processing agriculture produce. Till, however, such a situation is reached, every family would like to buy in the cheapest market. Hence village self-sufficiency does not appear possible without villagisation of land. Till then every family in the village will have to find source of employment in agriculture and buy his needs of food and clothing in the market. This is the present situation and village self-sufficiency does not appear possible without individual property of land being abolished.