Vantage point

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Why Khadi?

Mahatma Gandhi urged people to burn their imported clothes and wear khadi. Each person was encouraged to spin his own khadi, and then wear clothes made from it. The rationale behind it was to reject the clothes which were manufactured in England. The Britishers took cotton from India to England, and sold the finished goods here, pocketing a healthy margin. Why let the Britishers pocket the margin, was Gandhiji's rationale. It is this margin, and the revenue they earn from it, that gives them the economic might to keep India under their thumbs. The whole concept of 'Swadeshi' was an economic strategy to minimise the colonised bankrolling the colonisers.

Bet you knew that already.

Now tell me, what is the relevance of khadi in today's world? India is one of the biggest garment exporters in the world. There has been tremendous improement in technology which makes mass production very efficient. As a result you have a Chinese town which is the "Socks Capital" of the world, producing a huge chunk of the socks sold in the world.

We have pretty much the same advantages as China does, viz, raw material and cheap labour. When you buy clothes, the people making the margins are almost all Indian. Why then does the government still continue to promote Khadi? The same worker who is involved in making khadi can be utilised much more efficiently in the modern textile industry, which is a lot more profitable.

Even our politicians who insist on wearing khadi kurtas..... what point are they trying to prove? Do they think the khadi hides the fact that they are getting down from a swanky new Mercedes, and entering their 20-room mansions?

Khadi for me is one of the biggest anachronistic symbols in India today. It served us well during our freedom struggle, but today it belongs only in museums and history books. If you don't believe me, try counting the number of slum-dwellers and beggars in India wearing Khadi. Then count the number of Five-Star-Only-Commies wearing khadi (like Comrade Yechury.

Khadi today is the fabric of the privileged.