Self Reliance - Clothing

Today’s unstable market forces and its adverse impact on rural India required a back-to-basics approach as the rural poor strive for economic self-sufficiency and sustenance. Keeping up with this philosophy, this narrative details Prof Jajoo idea to process cloth from the cotton cultivated in the village starting in1992.

This concept of Vastra Swavalamban, an activity where an individual engages himself or herself in spinning of yarn for his/ her own self-sufficiency is not a novel concept. Gandhiji placed prime importance on the spinning of khādī (handspun and hand-woven cloth) using a charkha (a type of spinning wheel) for rural self-employment and self-reliance and made it an iconic piece of the Indian Freedom Movement.The individual called a Vastra-Swavalambi, does not work for wages. The Swavalambi being a habitual wearer of khadi based on handspun yarn turned out by their own hands.

Gandhiji said

“…If we have the 'khadi spirit' in us, we would surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life’…

“…The 'khadi spirit' means fellow-feeling with every human being on earth. It means a complete renunciation of everything that is likely to harm our fellow creatures, and if we but cultivate that spirit amongst the millions of our countrymen, what a land this India of ours would be!”...

“…Khadi is the sun of the village Industry’s solar system. The planets are the various industries which can support khadi in return for the heat and the sustenance they derive from it. Without it other industries cannot grow”…

“…Charkha is the symbol of the nation's prosperity and therefore freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace”…

The journey…

Prof Jajoo approached Shri Damodar Wele, a vastra-swavlambi  Gandhian, and a role model for all to follow. Damodar Wele accompanied Prof Jajoo for late evening educative sessions in the villages which started at 9 pm. This was the only time the villagers were free after the completion of their daily chores and gathered together.  Damodar Wele narrated his journey to the villagers in the year 1990 and explained why he pledged for to the principle of Vastra-swalamban from the time he was a teenager.  He provided details on how this guided him in adopting a Gandhian way of life. He gave examples of how it has enriched his personal life and has brought to him a sense of fulfillment and inner peace. Shri Wele took upon himself that villagers could visit his house and experience first-hand the authenticity and truthfulness of the concept.

Thus, Mahatma Gandhi’s words ‘those who wear should spin and those who spin should wear’ were adopted in spirit by 250 families and they started spinning the Ambar Charkha (named after Shri. Ambar Nathji, who designed the functional yarn spinning machine). They also started to wear hand-made cloth-Khadi. This initiative also helped to find among the villagers people who based on their industriousness and selflessness could be identified as righteous and virtuous among the crowd.

In 1992 those who pledged for Vastra-swavlamban were considered eligible for membership of Jowar Health Assurance Scheme. The proposed scheme of “Khadi Commission” (State Body) which assists Khadi institutions in promoting Vastra-Swavalamban, was started by the government but was only half-heartedly implemented in its original spirit and therefore remained a theoretical concept. Prof. Jajoo’s team decided not to depend upon these avenues but develop an independent mechanism with the help of Gram Seva Mandal – a khadi Institution in Wardha  to assist in developing this concept.

Change in strategy…

With time, Prof. Jajoo’s team realized that labour intensive life style of the villagers does not permit them to spare enough time to spin on a daily basis. Around the year 2008 the Vastra-swavamban strategy changed track and became more inclusive allowing the cotton growing farmers to get the cloth of their choice in exchange of organically grown cotton at no profit no loss basis. This barter system, in a way, protects them from the exploitative market. Many villagers who procured the Ambar Charakha-the cloth spinning machine, in the beginning (250 of them) have withdrawn from regular spinning. But, the pledge for Vastra-swavalamban taken by them served the purpose of identifying the SAJJAN SHAKTI - sacred souls in the society, for the current and future social endeavours.

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