As the controversy over the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the calendar of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) continues, the Shri Gandhi Ashram in Sewapuri here struggles for survival.
The ashram was founded in 1946 by a group of Gandhians under the guidance of the Father of the Nation himself. For decades, the ashram played a crucial role in the promotion of khadi.
In its journey spanning seven decades, the ashram witnessed several elections and governments and continues to carry forward the legacy of the Mahatma. The ashram still imparts training in weaving and spinning and has a store on its premises where clothes produced in other ashrams are also available.
“The ashram was set up on November 5, 1946 by Akshay Kumar Karma, Dheerendra Majumdar, Vichitranarayan Sharma and a few other Gandhians under the guidance of the Mahatma to promote khadi and provide employment to weavers,” said Pradbhunath Singh, principal of the training centre at the ashram.
This is one of the three ashrams in the country that provides training in spinning yarn and weaving. The training in spinning and weaving started here in 1950. In 1955-56, the ashram came under the purview of the Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
Traditional weavers and spinners were roped in as trainers. Besides khadi, the ashram also used to train youths in making of incense sticks, leather goods, mustard oil and spices.
Though incense sticks are still made here, the production of other goods was stopped about a decade ago.
“Vinoba Bhave visited the ashram a number of time. Former Prime Minister late Lal Bahadur Shashtri also paid a visit here. It was known as a model centre of khadi. Even today, many people visit the ashram,” said Singh.
“Youths are trained in making pure cotton, silk and woollen khadi. Spinning wheels are preserved in the store of the ashram. The old spinning wheels were replaced by new ones,” he said.
Singh, however, remained reluctant to get the photographs clicked.
“We have spinning wheels and handlooms. About 30 youths undergo training every year. After training, they get employment in khadi ashrams,” he said.
Singh, who has been serving the ashram for the last four decades, is not happy with the present state of affairs. He hopes the glorious past of the ashram would be restored one day.
Deputy chief executive officer, KVIC, SN Shukla said, “We will provide 500 solar-operated spinning wheels to the ashram. Khadi production will begin soon and all preparations have been made in this connection.”
Dr Rajnikant, who works for the cause of weavers and spinners, said, “The spinning art is dying in the absence of promotion and proper care. Sewapuri’s Gandhi ashram has played an important role in the promotion of khadi over the years. Government should pay attention to it.”