Pithoragarh: The khadi industry, once a symbol of Mahatma Gandhis vision of swadeshi, is dying a gradual death in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand due to the apathy of successive governments despite rising demand for khadi in the market.
Successive governments in the state have not been sympathetic towards needs of the Khadi industry and artisans associated with it, leading to shortage of funds to purchase raw material and decreasing numbers of workers in khadi manufacturing units in the state, according to institutes located in Kumaon region.
Khadi ashram Chanauda in Almora district, established by Shanti Lal Trivedi, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, which is the lone manufacturing Khadi institute in the district is not in a position to manufacture the required quantity due to lack of money to purchase the raw material.
"We are selling khadi items worth Rs 5 crore per year against a market demand of khadi goods worth Rs 10 crore but due to lack of money with the organisation to purchase raw wool, we are not in position to meet the demand," manager of Kshetriya Shri Gandhi Ashram Chanauda Hem Chandra Pant said.
The khadi organisation used to provide employment to over 4,000 people in Kumaon region when processors of raw wool, weavers of wool and cotton thread even operated from their homes, he said.
But, the number is slowly declining as Khadi institutes have no money to purchase raw material according to the demands of the market, he added.
"If promoted with patronage from the state government, Khadi is able to give employment to over 10,000 farmers, sheep herd owners and those working at cottage industry at their homes," Pant said.
Apart from Shri Gandhi Ashram Chanauda headed by Pant, the khadi industry in Uttarakhand, especially Kumaon, is represented by Gandhi ashram in Haldwani, the state run Khadi Gramodyog Board which has its manufacturing units in Almora, Nainital and US Nagar districts besides independent khadi weavers.
Haldwani unit of Gandhi Ashram, once well-known for its tweeds, printed bed sheets and hosiery embedded saris, is also facing shortage of raw material and unavailability of workers to work in its production units spread over Pantnagar, Kashipur, Fatehpur and Jaspur.
Besides, the unit in Haldwani has an annual turnover of Rs 9 crore at present but it can be taken to Rs 15 crore annually, only if it gets rebate money back from government in time.
"We can take the present employment level at 1,800 artisans to 2,500 in a years time, only if we get our rebate money from government in time," secretary with the Haldwani unit of Shri Gandhi ashram Suresh Chandra Pant said.
"Besides shortage of money to purchase raw material, the Khadi business was first hit up to 20 per cent by demonetisation and then 5 to 18 per cent after imposition of GST later this year," Pant said.
According to the Chaunauda Ashram manager, despite rising demands for khadi items manufactured in Almora, the number of people involved in the trade is gradually on the decline over the last two decades.
"Till recently, we had over 100 workers in our Chaunada plant and over 450 weavers spread in the villages of Almora, Bageshwar, Berinag and Munsiyari but the number is gradually decreasing as we are not in a position to give them raw material," said Pant.
According to Chaunada ashram manager, the shawls tweeds and Pashminas manufactured at Jakhan Devi Almora, Thulmas and Chutkas (blankets made of local wool) manufactured in Dharam ghar in Pithoragarh and woolen shawls (Pankhi) besides Thulmas and Chutkas manufactured by Bageshwar weavers under Gandhi ashrams are high in demand all over the country.
"What we need is money to purchase raw material which is just the double of what we are using today," said Pant.
According to him, even the discount announced by the government every year in Khadi goods from October 2, has not been paid to the organisation for the last 20 years which has also added to the woes of the organisation.
"Rs 65 lakh of our organisation is still pending with Khadi board under the head of discount," Pant said. PTI