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Wheel of fortune delivers a jackpot to humble charkha

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on May 27, 2018

Today’s charkha is made of steel, weighs about 42 kg and costs ₹15,000 apiece   -  BHAGYA PRAKASH_K

Gandhiji’s passion is now a favourite donation option for corporate houses

The charkha, a tool and symbol of India’s freedom struggle, is finding a new lease of life — with a bit of help from the corporate sector and various trusts.

At about ₹15,000 apiece, the charkha is a rather expensive tool. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), therefore, is on an aggressive mission to tap funding that is used to donate the spinning wheels to rural artisans.

From 2004 to 2014, a mere 175 charkhas had been donated. But, from November 2015 to February 2018, the number has risen exponentially to 30,767. ONGC, JK Group, GMR, Oil India, GNFC, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, the British High Commission, Dr Bansi Dhar Memorial Society, WWF-India and the World Bank, apart from a few HNIs, are among the donors.

In an interaction with BusinessLine, Vinai Kumar Saxena, Chairman of KVIC, recalled that charkhas had been attracting very little attention earlier. However, over the past three years, the Commission has taken to approaching trusts and large corporates for their CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds, he added.

KVIC obtains the funds under various schemes and utilises them to donate charkhas.

At times, companies (such as ONGC) are required to rehabilitate people at project sites. One option is to donate funds to buy spinning wheels, which offer an alternative source of livelihood to the displaced people, said Saxena.

Today’s charkha is an evolved version of what Mahatma Gandhi used — it is made of steel and weighs about 42 kg.

New, improved charkha

While the early versions had a single spindle, today’s comes with eight spindles, and can provide employment to an entire family.

Gandhiji himself had pointed to the need to improve the quality of charkha, said Saxena. In his own lifetime, five improvements had been made. Today’s version, produced by KVIC, is referred to as the ‘New Model Charkha’, but it continues to be driven by hand.

The model was developed in-house, said the KVIC Chairman.

IIT-Bombay tried its hand at the redesign, but it did not turn out well, he added.

Published on May 27, 2018

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