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The Khadi Story

23 Mar 2020

A term used for fabric that is hand-spun and handwoven, khadi usually comes from cotton fibre but is also manufactured from silk and wool, known as khadi silk or woollen khadi. The shift from nomadic to pastoral life brought the cultivation of cotton at the forefront, and India became the home of cotton and cotton cloth, better known as khadi.

History of Khadi

The charkha, a kind of spinning wheel, existed in India during the Vedic period and was used to spin khadi. Years later, the production of khadi was greatly advanced during the Mauryan and the Gupta period and reached its zenith during the Mughal period. It was only after the Industrial Revolution in England when charkhas were replaced by power looms that the art of weaving khadi was relegated mostly to villages. 

Khadi was revived during the Swadeshi movement when it was used as a powerful weapon for national freedom and employment of the poor. Mahatma Gandhi believed it was intrinsic to India’s nationhood and popularized spinning of khadi as a national mission. Indians who believed in the freedom struggle boycotted foreign-made cloth and wore garments made of home-spun khadi, thereby expanding the once diminished khadi industry.

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) was started in 1957 to provide employment, produce saleable goods and create a feeling of self-reliance among the rural people. From being a poor man’s choice of clothing to finding its way into everyone’s wardrobe today, the image of khadi is changing from a desi weave to a global fabric. The Make in India initiative has ensured the popularity of khadi as a global brand.

Khadi fabric production jumped from 103.22 million square metres in 2014-15 to 170.80 million square metres in 2018-19.

Khadi sales have grown 28% from 2015-16 to 2018-19 as against an average of 6.7% from 2004-14. With a turnover of Rs. 3215 crore in 2018-19, the government aims to take it to the Rs 10,000 crore mark in next five years. The reason behind this growth is aggressive marketing and the support of the government and corporates which has given a big boost to the fabric.

Recently, to facilitate and strategize export of khadi, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry allocated a separate Harmonised System (HS) code for it. This is a six-digit identification code developed by the World Customs Organisation, which helps in harmonizing customs and trade procedures. 

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has been working to create a conducive environment for the Indian handloom industry. CII also has signed an MoU with KVIC to boost the rural economy by supporting the cause of artisans and rural enterprises.
Its history and the Government’s efforts to promote khadi give it a promising future. As a fabric, it is versatile and as an industry, it can generate employment and change the Indian socio-economic landscape.

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