By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai–More than a month after the fracas over replacing Mahatma Gandhi’s pictures with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its annual diaries and calendars, the Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has been served a stern memo by the Centre for its now-infamous decision, official sources said here.
The Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) has shot off a detailed memo to the KVIC management stipulating stringent guidelines to be adhered to in future.
The memo has ordered the KVIC to henceforth send any such proposal for the approval of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), routed through the Ministry of MSME, which has administrative jurisdiction over KVIC.
“KVIC has to ensure that the office of ministers/Secretary is kept informed of any such major event/activities which are undertaken by KVIC as part of its promotional activity,” the memo of February 14 makes clear.
It also asked the KVIC to ensure that in future, it should send any such mails to the official email ids of of the PS of the ministers, secretary and officers of the ministry. A copy of the memo is available with IANS.
“The private email id should not be used for any official correspondence. The (above) directives should be followed scrupulously,” warned the memo, signed by KVIC Deputy CEO Y.K. Baramatikar.
The latest communication from the Centre has effectively debunked the claims made by KVIC’s top officials in recent weeks that it had reportedly sought the PMO’s clearance before replacing Mahatma Gandhi’s pictures with Modi’s in its 2017 wall calendars and desktop diaries.
The issue was first highlighted by IANS on January 12 when KVIC officials and employees were outraged after large stocks of the 2017 New Year calendars and diaries were received at the KVIC head office in Mumbai.
It showed Modi weaving khadi on large ‘charkha’ in the same iconic and historic pose as Mahatma Gandhi.
While Gandhi’s historic picture weaving khadi on a simple wooden charkha, wearing his trademark loin cloth, is legendary and imprinted in the minds of the masses since generations, Modi comes across in his signature attire of kurta-pyjama-waistcoat, weaving khadi on a slightly modernised charkha.
The employees even staged a symbolic “silent, soul-cleansing” protest wearing black bands on their mouths during lunch hour that day, and were later threatened with disciplinary action by the KVIC management.
At that time, Saxena sought to defend the move by saying “the entire khadi industry is based on Gandhiji’s philosophy, ideals and ideas, he is the soul of KVIC, so there was no question of ignoring him.”
“In fact, PM Modi is khadi’s biggest brand ambassador, and his vision matches KVIC’s, of ‘Make In India’ by making villages self-sufficient, ‘skill development’ by generating employment among the rural masses, infusing modern technology for khadi weaving, innovations and marketing. Plus, the PM is a youth icon,” Saxena explained to IANS after the controversy erupted.
While plans to take action against the employees and its union leaders were quietly dropped a few days later, the Shiv Sena-led Khadi Gramodyog Karmachari Sena (KGKS) demanded the removal of Saxena and other officials responsible for the faux pas.
“While the Centre has sought to streamline the KVIC in such matters in future, it has remained silent on whether any officials would be punished for misusing the PM’s name and photo in this manner,” a senior KGKS official, requesting anonymity, told IANS.
The issue had split the KVIC horizontally with the officers association supporting the chairman, and the employees unions opposing the move to replace Gandhi with Modi.
The KGKS also demanded that Mahatma Gandhi should figure prominently on all calendars and diaries of the KVIC henceforth and appropriate directives must be issued in this regard.
Snowballing into a raging nationwide controversy, the KVIC decision was flayed by all political parties including the Shiv Sena, a BJP ally, as well as prominent Gandhians, among them Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
Many have demanded that the entire lot of calendars and diaries be withdrawn and fresh ones printed bearing the pictures of Mahatma Gandhi.