Spinning Tales: Modi’s Claims on Khadi Sales Don’t Add Up

While ministries and Central government institutions have enthusiastically pushed khadi and khadi products, the actual sales figures haven’t quite touched the numbers touted by the prime minister in his latest Mann Ki Baat address.

Narendra Modi in Gujarat: Delivering a speech to mark the centenary of the Sabarmati Ashram and 150th birth anniversary of Shrimad Rajchandraji, a guru to Mahatma Gandhi, PM Modi said unleashing violence against others went against the ideals of the Father of the Nation. In a rare occassion, Modi was seen spinning a charkha at the Sabarmati Ashram. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seen spinning a charkha at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. Credit: PTI

Note: This article has been updated below to include KVIC Chairman V.K. Saxena’s rejoinder to the story and The Wire’s Noor Mohammad response.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that khadi sales increased by 90% this Diwali does not match with data available with the Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan – khadi’s flagship outlet in Connaught Place – which shows a modest growth of just 8% in Dhanteras sales over the last year.

In the latest edition of his Mann Ki Baat on Sunday, the prime minister said:

During Diwali, khadi gift coupon sales recorded an overwhelming 680% rise. Compared to last year, the total sales of khadi and village industries products have risen almost by 90%. One can clearly see that today, the youth, the elderly and women of every age group are taking to khadi.

The supernormal growth figures in khadi sales cited by the prime minister is also not in sync with the annual sales figures furnished by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) in recent years. According to the KVIC, khadi sales have increased by 33% in 2016-17, 29% in 2015-16 and 8.6% in 2014-15.

The prime minister, who portrays himself as a de facto brand ambassador for khadi products and the KVIC, has leveraged his appeal to prod public sector enterprises, government departments and ministries at the Centre and in states to buy and use khadi clothes, garments and other products.

For example, state-owned oil explorer ONGC added Rs 50 crore to khadi sales in 2016-17 by gifting free vouchers to its regular and non-regular employees, as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations of the company’s foundation. ONGC gave away coupons worth Rs 10,000 to each of its 34,236 regular employees and Rs 5,000 to 1,063 non-regular ones. Employees also got an extra value of 35% on buying khadi products through gifted vouchers.

NTPC and Power Grid also bought 500 yoga kits ahead of International Yoga Day on June 21 to distribute in their offices across the country. The kit had nine items, including upper and lower wear for men and women, khadi napkins, a yoga mat and a bag.

The BJP-controlled New Delhi Municipal Corporation placed orders for 1,000 yoga kits as well.

The Ministry of AYUSH, the nodal agency for organising the Yoga Day programme, ordered 300 yoga kits.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations placed Rs 2.5 crore-order for the supply of 15,000 yoga kits for men and women.

The Modi government’s excessive focus on promoting khadi products has put private sector competitors at a disadvantage, often shutting the doors for orders from government-owned entities.

For example, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in February this year, issued an order directing 23 Central government hospitals and medical research institutions across the country – including AIIMS, NIMHANS and others – to buy only khadi products. The list of 45 products included items ranging from bed sheets, towels, surgeon gowns and surgical patient gowns to soaps, khadi phenyle and herbal shampoo.

The total procurement cost of these items is over Rs 150 crore. The items will be supplied by KVIC over a period of seven to eight months, as per the individual requirements.

“The ministry of health adopting khadi for hospitals and staff is a significant symbol of khadi being the most natural and organic skin friendly fabric. The prime minister’s vision and support in promoting khadi on ever newer horizons is a matter of great pride to KVIC,” KVIC chairman V.K. Saxena said while welcoming the ministry’s new procurement guidelines.

Needless to say, KVIC is expecting bulk orders from Central government hospitals following the revision of procurement guidelines by the health ministry.

Air India has placed an order worth nearly Rs 7.98 crore with KVIC for 65,500 units of amenity kits for its first class and business class passengers.

Meanwhile, KVIC has requested all chief ministers to appeal to their employees to wear khadi once a week, say, every Friday. It earlier made a similar request to the Centre.

“This will greatly support the khadi sector and rural artisans will get sustainable additional employment. State government employees will also get the benefit of wearing skin-friendly natural fabric,” Saxena’s letter sent to chief ministers in August 2016 said.

BJP-ruled states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have already decided that government employees should wear khadi once a week but it is still not mandatory.

KVIC products are manufactured by about seven lakh privately-owned household units. These units are funded through schemes such as the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme.

Spinning artisans remain a miserable lot even as the prime minister claims credit for growth in khadi demand. KVIC had recommended hiking spinners wages from Rs 5.5 to Rs 7 per hank earlier this year. However, it was asked by the administrative ministry to put the decision on hold. The agency is planning to resubmit the decision to the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises for approval.

“After discussions, the Commission decided that the proposal for enhancement of wages should be resubmitted to the ministry for consideration with justification. Commission was of the view, that denying artisans of this much-needed increase was an injustice, and requested the ministry to clear this immediately in the interest of the artisans,” say the minutes of the 645th meeting of the KVIC held in Shimla on May 31.

Noor Mohammad is a financial journalist.

Khadi & Village Industries Commission Chairman V.K. Saxena responds:

The article “Spinning Tales: Modi’s claims on Khadi sales Don’t Add Up ” written by Noor Mohammad in your publication dated 31st October 2017. is a fact-twisted malicious script, written in a very cavalier manner. In fact, it is a piece of immature journalism that the author does not consult KVIC, while writing about the KVIC and has thus read some statistics in an erroneous manner. Thus, the reporter has peddled gross misinformation on a topic that is of deep rooted significance to rural sustainable development in India.

Please be advised that the Prime Minister’s love for Khadi is well known. It was due to the appeal made by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the sale of Khadi has gone up many folds. The Prime Minister spoke about the following sales figures in his Mann ki Baat and you need to view the figures in the context in which they were spoken and not through imaginary conjectures your writer makes.

Sales – April 2016- September 2016 Rs.429.93 Crores
Sales – April 2017- September 2017 Rs.813.86 Crores % of increase 89 %

Khadi Gift Coupon April 2016 to September 2016 Sale Rs. 86 Lakhs
Khadi Gift Coupon April 2017 to September 2017 Sale Rs. 5.85 Crores – % of increase 680%

Further, single day highest sale at Khadi Gramodyog Bhawan, New Delhi on 17th October 2017, was Rs.1,19,40,982 , surpassed the previous record of single day sale of Rs.1,11,00,000 recorded on 22nd October 2016.

The percentages increase given in your article is pertaining to the earlier period i.e. increase in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 whereas the increase percentage highlighted in ‘Man Ki Baat’ is the Khadi sales increase during April to September 2017 as compared to the same period in the previous year.

I fail to understand what is wrong if the Prime Minister appeals to government departments, corporate and people of India to adopt Khadi which is environmental friendly, natural fabric and can greatly support the rural artisans to get the sustainable employment. Khadi sector focuses more on sustainable development unlike the commercial fabric sector that focuses on profits and spreading the message of Khadi in a wider manner is a judicious instrument in the Gandhian doctrine of rural development. There is a need to appreciate these important principles before your reporter rush into ill intended conjectures.

If the Author is interested in making a genuine assessment, which we open-heartedly welcome, he may be well advised to keep in touch with KVIC to secure correct facts and figures before spinning a false story. KVIC is open to constructive criticism which helps in making our programmes more artisan friendly and helpful. But acts of wrong or malicious reporting greatly do injustice to the good intension and good work of both the Prime Minister and KVIC, thereby trivializing the society’s collective effort to sincerely uplift the livelihood support systems of the poor.

Noor Mohammad responds:

The article “Spinning Tales: Modi’s claims on Khadi sales Don’t Add Up ” is well researched and based on hard facts. Even your rejoinder has not contested veracity of any data used in the story.

As regards your contention that the writer has not taken cognisance of the high growth khadi sales data for April-September 2017, we would like to make it clear that we draw conclusions from annual, not quarterly sales growth, driven by heavy PSU buying and hefty discounts ahead of Diwali.

We will definitely take note of your yearly sales data when it is published.

But can overall growth in Diwali khadi sales be 90% if your flagship outlet in Connaught Place reports just 8% increase in Dhanteras sales over the last year? We would appreciate if you could explain the conundrum.

No one can have any problem with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s love for khadi, which is something that should be appreciated by every Indian. However, artificial demand generated by PSUs buying  should not be mistaken for khadi’s popularity among common people.

Demand for any product will go up if you get PSUs to buy it generously.

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