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FABINDIA, the chic ethnic wear company with more than Rs 1000-crore turnover, is now in the cross-hairs of the state-run Khadi & Village Industry Corporation (KVIC). Fabindia is a foreign company exploiting Indian artisans, alleges KVIC chairperson Vinai Kumar Saxena in this exclusive interview with News18.
KVIC has now written a letter to the CEO of Fabindia Overseas Pvt. Ltd., threatening to sue the company if it did not stop selling khadi products without taking prior permission from KVIC. Saxena says that despite 'written assurances' Fabindia continued to sell products labelled Khadi, despite not having necessary permissions to do so. The letter invokes 2003 KVIC act (introduced by the Atal Behari Vajpayee led NDA 1) according to which the powers of regulating 'the production, sale or trading of Khadi and Khadi products in India' was with KVIC.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with News18's Suhas Munshi:
Why did KVIC issue a notice to Fabindia?
Let me at the outset clarify that we’re not against anyone selling Khadi. In fact it benefits us and our artisans. But we cannot ignore the rules also. We had earlier also reminded Fabindia that they were selling Khadi without our permission, but they continued to do so. If you read the notice you’ll realise that we’ve been quite fair to Fabindia.
This company was also indulging in unfair trade practices because while selling clothes, whose stitched labels identified the cloth as ‘cotton’, they attached detachable labels to their clothes branding them as Khadi.
Were they taking away your customers?
Yes, undoubtedly. We have been losing customers looking to buy khadi products to them.
Do you think that because of a similarity in the line and variety of products that both Fabindia and KVIC offer, there is be a direct completion between the two?
No question of it. We’re way ahead of them.
So any agency that wishes to sell khadi will have to take permission from KVIC and buy only buy khadi exclusively from your stores?
Of course that’s what the Act says. And who else is producing Khadi? If you want to sell Coca-Cola you will have to buy your soft-drinks from them only, right? Let me reiterate this: we have no problem with anyone selling or marketing khadi goods. In fact we would be quite happy if the interest in khadi expands.
But why should there be a regulation over khadi at all?
There are various regulating agencies for food and agricultural products for instance. Ours is not the only regulating agency in the country. We are protecting the interests of a lot of artisans, that’s why we need to regulate khadi. Besides, Fabindia is a foreign organization that’s exploiting our artisans.
Do you think one reason for regulation of khadi is to do with a sentimental value attached to it?
Of course, khadi has sentimental value. It is the national fabric. Gandhiji started a campaign against foreign goods through charkha. The call of Swaraj was given by Gandhiji while spinning the wheel.
Since the Act came into being and conferred on you powers to regulate the sale of khadi back in 2003, how many such notices has KVIC issued till now? And to whom?
We have issued three notices. I wouldn’t like to name the companies.
You’ve hinted at exploring legal options against Fabindia. Could you tell us what could they be? Are there any provisions in the KVIC Act 2003 that stipulate some punishments for those who contravene its conventions?
There are enough provisions in the IPC for us. To begin with, they’ve clearly committed forgery.