January , 2019
Philosophy of khadi and rural reconstruction: a Gandhian view
16:02 pm

Padma Shri Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Mahatma Gandhi’s above-mentioned statement appearing in Harijan on September 29, 1946 depicts the importance of the Indian fabric Khadi and his philosophy at the root of it, revealing to a large extent his vision of village-reconstruction, rebuilding Hindustan on the basis of her hand-spun fabric heritage –pioneering an era of self-reliance, development and prosperity.

Views expressed by Mahatma Gandhi on another occasion (appeared in Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place, ed. 1948) besides reflecting the magnitude of India’s thousand year old tradition of hand-woven cloth –Khadi as a symbol of unity instrumental in restoring the lost dignity of Indians through the philosophy related to it. Through this, one can well comprehend the sole spirit of Khadi-Darshan related to human equality, the most important aspects of freedom, justice and rights are necessarily associated therewith. This, eventually, unveils Gandhiji’s all-timely and unique idea of achieving Swarajya through constructive work paving the way to Sarvodaya, which is finally dedicated to humanism –rise and prosperity of everyone without any kind of discrimination, be it on the basis of caste-class, colour, community –social or religious, gender or economic disparity. To quote from the views of the Mahatma himself:

“Khadi to me is the symbol of unity of Indian humanity, of its economic freedom and equality and, therefore, ultimately... (it is) the livery of India’s freedom (in which) decentralisation

of the production and distribution of necessaries of life (remain just and fair).”  

India is a country of villages. According to the 2011 census, out of 68.84% population of the country, around 833.1 million people live in 6,49,481 villages, however, in Gandhiji’s lifetime, i.e., in pre-independence India or even in 1947, the year of India’s freedom from the British, the number of villages was much more than this.

Villages are not only the strength of the social structure of the nation, but they are the protectors of evolutionary and harmonious culture of India –cultural values bringing compatriots within the ambit of unity in diversities and more especially they play the vital role in stabilising and the growth of the national economy. Agriculture –the main enterprise of villages and related industries are the spinal column of the economy of the nation. The significance of villages in socio-cultural and economic fields –in the overall development of the nation as Gandhiji clarified it well through his ideas related to Sarvodaya –the welfare of all and Swarajya –self-rule, calling on the countrymen to step forward accordingly, is not the least deniable today in comparison to the living days of the Mahatma himself.  

Khadi refers to the national dignity of hand-spun, hand-woven cloth. In simple terms, it is also the cloth manufactured in the country by the countrymen themselves with their own raw material. Cloth is one of the five basic human needs. Its significance in man’s life is well known to all of us. Having this very importance of man’s life in the centre, Mahatma Gandhi revolutionised a large-scale production of Khadi by common men –villagers an essential part of the national liberation movement. He called on the compatriots at the launch of the Non-co-operation and Swadeshi Movement in 1920 to boycott all foreign manufactured or labelled goods, more especially cloths manufactured in mills under mill-owners’ monopoly and being sold at high cost by the British Raj to Indians sucking on their dignity and prosperity.     

The basic spirit at the root of Mahatma’s call remained in the fact that he desired common men of India, a country of villages and farmers, to become the part and parcel of the mainstream of the nation –creating large scale awakening among people and making appropriate use of the whole of their labour, thus, through their self-sufficiency to ascertain their place in becoming the backbone of the national economy. Kisans and their associates –almost all those living in villages are to a large extent in one way or the other connected to each other. Their mutual dependency to a great extent remains intact. Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, wished this village power –the real strength of the nation through its self-sufficiency playing vital role in the economy to contribute towards Sarvodaya leading to Swarajya.

Hence, the idea of Khadi is not only confined to the hand-spun hand-woven cloth, but it is, undoubtedly, an effective and the most practical thought, a philosophy dedicated to Sarvodaya –the welfare of all paving the way to Swarajya having village-centred economy as the nucleus. It is the medium of all-welfaristic funda-

mental change fairly conducive to the resurrection of the real Hindustan –a country of villages, on the basis of available national resources, fair, full and positive use of manpower and large scaled joint endeavours of countrymen as per the demand of time.                               

All efforts made by Mahatma Gandhi himself and his comrades by his inspiration in his lifetime, especially a resolution passed by the Working Committee of Indian National Congress in 1921 to manufacture two millions of Charkhas –spinning wheels and their distribution throughout the country, the formation of the All India Khadi Mandal during the Kakinada Congress Session in 1923 and the All India Spinners Association on September 22, 1925 at Patna (Bihar) are of noteworthy significance in this very context. Further, works related to village workers, all-round village service, promotion of village cottage industries, co-operative cattle farming, cow protection and many more, which remained the part and parcel of constructive programmes of Gandhiji were a further extension of the unique philosophy of Khadi.  

Lakhs of people throughout India got themselves familiar with this philosophy in Gandhiji’s lifetime. They, having the spirit of Swadeshi (Khadi was and is indeed the living symbol of reflection thereof) in the centre involved themselves in various constructive programmes, especially those mentioned above and stepped forward towards their self-sufficiency, also for the liberation of the country from alien rule and made themselves committed to rebuild Hindustan on the basis of national culture and fabric heritage.

Enough literature and documents are available to prove this fact. Present generation must go through these documents keeping at the centre the philosophy of Khadi and rural reconstruction of the imagination of the Gandhian view and the way to achieve it all along the Gandhian line, more especially with the purpose of proving all-timely significance and practicability of the Gandhian viewpoint related to it further to seek inspiration from it to make endeavours accordingly. 

The Khadi philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi is, as mentioned already, village economy oriented. It is fairly dedicated to the re-

demption of villages, the soul of India and eventually to the building of the nation through the pure indigenous means and humane way on the strength of basic socio-cultural values, available resources and immense manpower. This philosophy is wholly aboriginal –Swadeshi, the most constructive factor for Indian society, national structure and the system. It, therefore, becomes all-timely if applied in its refined form as per the demand of time and space. No one can underestimate it.

Nor, one can slight minimize its significance.                        

It was the reason that after nine years of India’s freedom the Khadi and Village Industries Commission –KVIC was formed by the Government of India in the year 1956 as a statutory body with the purpose of promotion of Khadi and village –cottage industries all along the Gandhian lines. In other words, this Commission was formed to implement the Khadi philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi in free India under the Government elected by the countrymen themselves. The uplift of India through its lakhs of villages, the backbone of nation’s economy, especially the re-development of cottage industries existing in rural areas for hundreds of years in prevailing situations and as per the demand of time remained the foremost motto of this Commission.     

In its sixty-two years journey the KVIC despite several flaws at the system level, dwelling on details thereof is not appropriate here, has through several programmes and schemes done good according to the purpose –the basic spirit of its formation. It is a matter of satisfaction to an extent that the Commission has through its various programmes and schemes, launched from time-to-time, reached all the twenty-nine provinces and almost all the union territories of India. The quality of Khadi, the nucleus of the whole philosophy leading to self-sufficiency –rural upliftment is being made more regenerative with the objective of keeping warm in winter and cool in summer, trendy and stylish with modern designs for people, general and elite leading to fill the countrymen with the feeling of Swadeshi. It is also getting popularity in many countries of the world.

Further, approximately fifty lakh people are employed in industries making Khadi products and more than this number are benefited indirectly –earning through various programmes, projects and schemes (details of which are well available) being supported and promoted by the KVIC. Total 391344 Village Industries are satisfactorily functioning under the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (the KVIC) as per the available official annual report of the year 2016.           

But, much more is desired to be done in this regard. Rural upliftment is the acid test of real progress of Hindustan. Having familiarity with the basic spirit of the philosophy of Khadi –Khadi-Darshan, more concrete endeavours for maximum self-sufficiency of villages are the burning need of the day not only at the Government level or by the state support, but through the efforts of voluntary organisations or bodies as well keeping the fact firmly in mind that forwarding steps towards Swadeshi and Swarajya, villages are the living signs and basic source thereof. Khadi has been and will always be a symbol of national heritage, keeping national dignity alive. Hence the youth of today is called upon to take charge of it and put innovative efforts to spread the use of Khadi, well-suited for all weather conditions, and thereby strengthen the national economy further.

  Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice Chancellor of Meerut University, he is also the Editor of Global Peace International Journal.

[The view expressed here are personal and don’t reflect those of the government]


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