Khadi is handspun & handwoven, but not all handspun cloth needs to be tagged as khadi.
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has sent notices to more than 200 entities, asking them to not use terms such as “handwoven”, “hand spun”, and “woven in handlooms” without its prior approval. KVIC was established to promote and propagate the indigenous craft of khadi-wear and design. Khadi, as per the KVIC Act 1956 is handwoven fabric from handspun silk, cotton and wool, made without the use of electricity. The Khadi Mark Regulations, notified in 2013, gave KVIC the mandate to hand out Khadi Mark tags/labels for the purpose of identifying true and authentic khadi products. KVIC exercised this mandate when it asked FabIndia to stop labelling its garments as khadi without having obtained KVIC approval, and later sued the company for selling factory-made clothes labelled as khadi. Problematic as that was, given how the KVIC Act talks of the need to “encourage and promote research in the technology … including the use of non-conventional energy and electric power, with a view to increasing productivity”, the current instance is one of egregious over-reach—KVIC chairman VK Saxena has interpreted the definition of khadi as applicable to all hand spun yarn and handwoven/handloom fabric.
However, there are many organised and unorganised producers of hand spun yarn and handwoven fabric. Almost every state has its own signature handloom—Tamil Nadu’s kanjivaram, Odisha’s sambalpuri, Bengal’s jamdani, to name a few. Most states have government-supported co-operatives and government textile retailers that check the ‘hand spun’/‘handloom’ status of fabric and weavers. With handloom weavers already struggling from the onslaught of power-looms, the bureaucratic nightmare that KVIC’s centralised certification dictat is, could hurt them instead of serving their interests. The KVIC is mandated to concern itself only with the Khadi Mark and khadi labelling. If the handloom weavers of Tamil Nadu are better served by a Co-optex—which attaches tags to all handloom products sold at its stores that carry details of the weaver—or those of Odisha by Boyanika, then there is little reason why they should be made to get KVIC certification as well. KVIC must remember that while all khadi is hand spun/handwoven, not all hand spun/handwoven/handloom products are aspiring to the Khadi Mark tag.