Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s promise to revive the nearly century-old Khadi spinning centre at Badanavalu has shored up hopes among the women workers of the unit, which is teetering on the brink of closure since the last few years.
Mr. Gandhi who has embarked on Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, visited the village which is about 35 km from Mysuru to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti on Sunday. He went around the khadi centre which was established decades before Independence and was given a demonstration of the spinning and weaving. He also interacted with women workers employed by the khadi unit and apprised himself of their problems.
Puttamadamma of Badanavalu who has been engaged in spinning cotton for over 50 years was among those who interacted with Rahul Gandhi. She later told The Hindu that as a child she had seen Mahatma Gandhi and took to spinning cotton at a time when the payment was 10 paisa for spinning one meter of cotton. “Today, it is about 25 rupees and one can at the most earn ₹100 per day which is insufficient,” said Puttamadamma.
Similar views were expressed by Nagaratna and Jyothi who work in the unit. “Rahul Gandhi and Siddaramaiah sir asked us to be patient for another 5 to 6 months after which they promised to revive the unit and resolve our problem,” said Ms. Nagaratna.
Though many leaders in the past had promised to revive the khadi unit at Badanavalu, it has not materialised till date. However, the women workers said they see a sliver of hope following Rahul Gandhi’s visit.
The selection of Badanavalu and the Khadi centre as one of the stops for Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti is not without significance.
For it was here that freedom fighter Tagadur Ramachandra Rao – inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi – established the khadi centre as a way for economic emancipation of the local people. Badanavalu was also visited by Mahatma Gandhi during his tour of the Mysuru region, once in 1927 and again in 1932.
The spinning and weaving centre — which is a unit of Khadi and Gram Udyoga Sahakara Sangha with its headquarters at Holenarsipura in Hassan district — has had a steady decline in fortunes owing to supply-demand issues over the last few years. Besides, low wages would not attract new labour and indifferent demand has led to production loss adding to woes of the unit even as the pandemic crippled it further. Despite reopening, a majority of the nearly 60 women employed at the unit are without work and, therefore, without income.