GUWAHATI, Oct 1 - Had he been alive, Mahatma Gandhi would have been saddened at the dismal plight of the Assam Khadi & Village Industries Board.
As the nation gears up to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Father of Nation tomorrow, the State�s Khadi Board is battling an existential crisis, much of its mess blamed on government indifference and managerial oversight.
In the financial year 2015-16, the Khadi Board�s sales had dipped to a five-year low at Rs 71.12 lakh. In the previous year, it had recorded sales of around Rs 94.82 lakh. The Board markets a range of products, including cotton khadi fabrics, silk khadi fabrics, woollen khadi fabrics, poly khadi fabrics, besides other village industry goods.
A senior official in the Board said managerial lapses have been a major factor contributing to the present state of affairs. �There is a lack of vision and foresight on the part of the officers at the helm,� the official told The Assam Tribune.
The Board is also facing acute manpower shortage. Against the sanctioned strength of some 900 people, it currently has only around 360 employees.
The infrastructure of the Board has deteriorated and as a result the number of production centres has come down to 20 from 41.
�Ever since its inception, upgradation and maintenance works were undertaken only till the late 1970s. During my long stint at the Board, I have never seen any infrastructural upgradation works worth the name being undertaken,� said another senior official, who has been working with the Board for the last 25 years.
The Board operates around 45 sales counters across the State, but those too are in need of efficient personnel.
�Handspun fabric, espoused by Mahatma Gandhi, has come a long way from being just a sartorial symbol of India�s Independence movement. Today it is attracting a lot of youngsters and is an alternative for georgette, chiffon and net. But the State�s Khadi Board is unable to cash in on the opportunity due to various reasons,� said another senior employee.
However, the Board has of late pleaded for a makeover and has submitted a proposal to the State government. The proposal includes renovation of infrastructure, replacement of old and defunct tools and implements, etc. The Board has also sought sanction from the government to introduce e-charkhas.
�We would need Rs 8 to Rs 10 crore for a complete revamp. If things set rolling, we hope to recover in three to four years� time,� the official added.