Bengaluru

25 years and still spinning

The Charaka Women’s Multipurpose Industrial Co-operative Society, located in Bheemanakone, Shivamogga, was founded in 1994.

The Charaka Women’s Multipurpose Industrial Co-operative Society, located in Bheemanakone, Shivamogga, was founded in 1994.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

From humble beginnings, cooperative society now employs over 700 villagers, most of whom are women

Charkha, the spinning wheel immortalised by Mahatma Gandhi, has also been the name of a quiet handloom revolution taking place in a village in Karnataka. That movement has now turned 25 years old.

The Charaka Women’s Multipurpose Industrial Co-operative Society, located in Bheemanakone, Shivamogga, was founded in 1994 with the dream of setting up an environmentally-friendly rural industry to generate local employment as an alternative to intensive agriculture and large industries. Started with two looms and two sewing machines in a small shelter on the Heggodu-Varadamoola road, it has since grown into a large production facility with multiple units employing over 700 villagers, most of whom are women.

In addition, it has the distinction of being one of the largest producers of naturally dyed handloom fabric in the country, currently producing over 30,000 metres of fabric per month.

Theatre personality Prasanna, the founder of Charaka, told The Hindu that it was an experiment which has taken 25 years to become a “substantial model.”

“It is not easy to make rural women free in their mind. When you show all systems needed to run a cooperative, they get frightened. They want somebody to run it for them. The exercise is to make the system adopt their needs. I didn’t really start it as a women’s movement; it became one,” he said.

Speaking about lessons from Charaka, he said, “Everybody is starting from the market end, but we started from the production end. Rural production has not collapsed because of lack of skill. They are hardworking and extraordinary skilled. The earlier system involving family and community work was inadequate. It could easily slip into caste system. If you want to take it from that abyss, you have to give them a new system. This was the biggest challenge. This is what Gandhiji tried.”

The great successes of the monster economy, he said, is the system of inventory, HR, quality control, book keeping and leadership. “When we were at the end of the 22nd year, crisis hit us in the form of demonetisation and GST. I sat on a hunger strike. It was hitting my organisation. Since then, we have taken a major decision to accept that this is going to stay. We should learn to deal with the crisis: cut wastage and costs, maintain quality. There are reforms going on in Charaka; we appointed a CEO, set up an R&D centre,” Mr. Prasanna explained.

The future

The cooperative, which focussed on garments the first 18 years, is now looking at fabric sales, which has a huge market. “The notion is that fine fabric is in demand in the handmade bracket. But thicker fabric is in huge demand for garments, towels, interiors. We have started systematically holding buyer seller meets between weavers and designers, corporate houses, etc,” Mr. Prasanna added.

The Charaka Utsava 2020 will be held from February 14 to 16 at Heggodu village.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 12:16:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/25-years-and-still-spinning/article30786151.ece

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