Economy of Permanence
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
27 Mar 2011

Permanence in a transient world

There are still bits of history in Wardha, the district town in Vidharbha, Maharashtra. There is an air of optimism as one strolls across the sleepy streets, sensing a whiff of peace and non-violence as people go about their daily chores. Modernity has yet to take full control on peoples’ life; the creative genius has an environment to flourish here.

Magan Sanghralaya, in the middle of the town, is a repository of non-violent tools and techniques for building an ‘economy of permanence’. It houses what Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa, whom Gandhi called the ‘doctor of village industries’, stood for in giving constructive shape to Gandhi’s revolutionary ideas.

Published over 65 years ago, Economy of Permanence is seemingly more relevant today then during the period it was written. Even as early as in 1945, Kumarappa had given a call to shun the use of non-renewable resources which he proclaimed belonged to a ‘bucket economy’ (where the water gets depleted) and exhorted that we need a ‘river economy’ instead (one that replenishes).

Partly experiential, the non-violent way of life is based on author’s own transformation from a Europeanized lifestyle. In detailing out the inter-related facets of life, lifestyle and livelihoods, Kumarappa builds his thesis on the premise that the life of man is transient in comparison with that of Nature, which is relatively permanent.

In his foreword to Economy of Permanence, Gandhi had observed that ‘it needs careful reading twice or thrice if it is to be fully appreciated’. Kumarappa was clearly ahead of his times, talking of moral values and cooperative banking in the same breath. With equal ease, he could relate standard of living to the idea of democracy as well.

Despite the book been written more than half a century ago, many of Kumarappa’s ideas are still being effectively pursued in and around Wardha.Economy of Permanence is a work of practical philosophy, insightful and inspiring at the same time.

Economy of Permanence
by J C Kumarappa
Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti, Wardha
186 pages, Rs 200



It weaves together the stories and the destiny of the farmer and the many people involved in the seven subsequent production stages (ginning/cleaning, carding/slivers, warping, weaving, dyeing, and printing). Khadi generates community-based livelihood and strengthens the village economy. It is a wonder fabric with less twist and softer weave (more air cavities, more porous) that is uniquely thermally efficient.

Mahatma Gandhi urged the adoption of khadi as a means to economic freedom. Modern day sustainable production practices, low carbon footprint urging, and the importance of reducing the use of chemicals in everyday life, find new resonance in the production of organic khadi.


Built on Gandhian vision, and with a strong legacy connect to his personal involvement, this is an enterprise that is uniquely progressive in its holistic approach to community development, combining traditional skills from across regions, current scientific advances, design expertise, and a pulse of changing fashion trends of individual and commercial customers.


In 1936, Gandhi moved to Sevagram, then a village near Wardha. This is where he set up his base. (Today, the ashram in Sevagram attracts visitors from around the world who walk in quite awe through a campus with humble cottages that were once occupied by people who shaped the destiny of the country. Prayers are conducted at specific times through the day).

In 1938 Gandhi inaugurated the Magan Sangrahalaya (museum), dedicated to rural enterprise. Arguably, this is the only facility he conceptualised himself, and got to see in its early operational days. The governing body today works with over 400 self-help groups providing training and skills development, sharing new production techniques, nurturing local handicrafts and artisan communities, and spreading the reach of khadi, from farm to fabric. Chairperson, Dr. Vibha Gupta leads the diverse projects of a resurgent Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti’s rural enterprise that ensures livelihoods in the region through skill development. 80% of sale proceeds from a wide variety of products from khadi fabric and finished garments, to personal products and staples, toys, food products and more, are ploughed back into the betterment of the lives of all those involved in their production.

Magan Khadi shares a symbiotic relationship with the Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti’s rural enterprise khadi projects. The focused Magan Khadi enterprise and brand will help build on considerable current achievements and scale growth plans to further community development objectives.


In 2016, Magan Khadi procured 16 T of raw organic cotton from 25 farmers of Samudrapur, Seloo block, Wardha, and Arvi block of Wardha District.

The Khadi unit works with two Organic Farmers Training Centres – Chetna-Vikas (Alodi village) and Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti (Samudrapur, Girad village). Training is provided in – land preparation; mulching ; irrigation; sowing; multiple cropping; nutrient mix; pest control ; organic farming norms.

A 12-member team monitors the organic farms, keeps records, maintains an organic seeds bank, supplies organic farm inputs, assists in marketing farm produce, and conducts farmer training.

With Mission Samriddhi intervention the annual production target is 37T of organic raw cotton. Earlier, the carding/sliver/roving process stages were outsourced. Owned ginning and roving machines will now be installed at a nodal centre near the organic farms for increased efficiency and less wastage. Soft baling machines will be used to prevent damage to micro cotton fibres. Spinning units will continue to operate in clusters (20 in Karla ; 35 solar spinning units in Seloo ; and 25 solar spinning units in the Magan campus in Wardha). The warping process which was earlier left to the weavers will be done in-house to ensure no mixing of non-organic yarn, which is essential to maintaining the integrity of the 100% organic Magan Khadi proposition.

The number of farmers involved in organic cotton cultivation will increase from 25 to 60. Current production capacity will increase three-fold. Direct employment through process stages will increase from 173 to 261. And Magan Khadi will now be able to take up orders that had to be declined earlier due to capacity constraints.


8 stages from farm to fabric

1. Raw cotton

2. Ginning/cleaning

3. Carding/slivers

4. Spinning/reeling

5. Warping

6. Weaving

7. Dyeing

8. Printing


1. Leaf Block (God’s Block) – Fresh leaf is used as block. Leaves from the Magan campus

2. Kacim Line – Lines are drawn on loosely stretched fabric with help of a coconut fibre or straw brush

3. Block Prints – Library of 800 blocks. Big demand for Warli design (8 blocks)

4. Eco Prints – Dry flowers, leaves, roots and bark are placed on the fabric and the fabric is rolled and steamed.

5. Eco Spray – Fabric is crumpled and colour sprayed


Natural dyes extracted from seeds, roots, leaves, vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs and barks create the entire pantone range of colours. The often edible and known for medicinal properties in traditional medicine, natural ingredients produce the most vivid shades and delicate pastels in the hands of Magan Khadi experts working with well researched and documented organic dyeing processes.


The delicate Blushing Stripes stole collection with colours from natural dyes


Extract from natural dyes ingredients / colours table in the Magan Khadi library


1. Yarn

2. Fabric (colour woven ; grey)

3. Print on fabric

4. Readymade products (Stoles ; Sarees ; Jackets ; Shirts ; T shirts ; Laptop sleeves ; Tote bags ; Bed sheets ; Bed spreads ; Pillows covers ; Cushion covers


In addition to retail customers, Magan Khadi also caters to the needs of institutional buyers including reputed brands like Aditya Birla, Good Earth and Navdanya (finished fabric with custom design printing and stoles) and national khadi institutions.

Magan Khadi is not merely about designing exquisite fabrics and prints in khadi. We can play a very significant role in improving the well-being of so many rural communities across India. Organic khadi has implications on the health and prosperity of our farmers, weavers, and all those involved in production. Organic means no chemicals through the process stages – from farm to fabric. Very few people understand this implication of this and the reality of what Magan Khadi is doing. After decades in this field and with all our pioneering work, we’re still at the beginning. With the support of Mission Samriddhi , I am looking at interventions across process stages to realise our true potential.


Spinning unit in Seloo


Popular Warli prints from Warli tribe (Dahanu, Thane dist.) of Maharashtra. 28 design patterns in 20 colours.


‘Booti’ and ‘Jaal’ prints with individual blocks. 800 block designs. Fabric printing on 35 count ST 42

Wardha Wardhan

Wardha Wardhan

A week long annual fair is organized by the institute where NGOs, activist groups, farmers, artisans and artists display, demonstrate, and sell their products. It also provides a platform for all these groups to interact with each other.

For general public, it gives an opportunity to know about alternative living, eco-friendly products, ideas and methods to conserve nature and meet people who have pioneered to evolve new alternatives. Here, the people are exposed to alternative products and processes such as organic food; alternative fuel; alternative sources of energy, alternative to multinational products, alternatives to chemical products; herbal medicines as alternative to allopathic drugs etc. It include a culture which emphasizes the use of natural products, their beneficial proprieties vis-à-vis chemical based products.

It serves as a market for ecologically sound products where competition and commercialism is replaced by common sense and compassion.

In the years 2004 and 2005, CAPART assisted the institution to organize Gram Shree Mela where 150 organizations from 22 states participated. Around 70,000 people from Wardha and surrounding villages also visited this exposition.

Natural Food

Natural Food

The processed food items are manufactured by Self Help Groups. For the visitors the outlet provides hot organic meal made from organic season vegetables, coarse grain and fresh oil. The beverages contain herbal tea, coffee and drinks made from flowers.

Village Industries

Village Industries


The museum showcases various rural industries and depicts the development of Khaki over the years. The khadi wing showcases forty different kinds of Charkha dating back to year 1930. The Charkhas displayed in the exhibition range from the hand , pedal to solar driven Charkha. It also displays the changing form of Charkha from Sudarshan (Wheel )to kissan (Box) to Ambar charkha and presently the E-Charkha. The display wing hold sections on Khadi, Natural Dye, Silk, Raw-Silk, Wool and Jute mixed Khadi.


The museum showcases 32 rural industries including – Food processing, Agriculture tools for small farmers , Honey from the wild rock-bees, Non-violent Leather (goods from fallen hides), Pottery, Hand made paper, oil from edible & Non-edible seeds. It also exhibits industries based on Palm, Bamboo, Lac, Grasses, Jute, Wood, Metal, Glass, Stone, Mud, Horn, Cow dung and Cow urine.

Water Harvesting

Water Harvesting

STORING RAINDROPS FOR RESUSCITATIONSTORING RAINDROPS FOR RESUSCITATIONIn the summers of 2002, Dr. Vibha Gupta met the women from Girad village of Samudrapur block, Wardha, who informed about the acute water crisis in their village. In addition, they explained how a mass exodus from the adjoining three water-scarce villages has aggravated their crisis. On reaching Girad, she found that the wells were drying. Ugly fights and violence at water sources ended in police station. The local farmers were undergoing a terrible economic crisis as 80 percent farmers were reeling under heavy debts taken for purchasing chemical farm inputs.
In search of water, tigers from the adjoining forest moved down to these villages. Outside villages refused to marry their daughters to men of these villages; and liquor booths were outnumbering food stalls. The famous pilgrimage – Farid Baba Dargah – annually attracted 15-20 lakh pilgrims, whose water needs also added to this water crisis.
With the help of the local community, MSS led an anti-liquor campaign and succeeded in banning its sale. Then, a detailed watershed action plan was prepared and CAPART agreed to fund it.
In three years, watershed structures and 36,000 new trees planted by community started showing results. The level of groundwater and well-water in the village rose by 5-6 feet. Initially during summers, these villages were supplied 2.4 crore litres of drinking water through water tankers, costing Ten Lakh rupees. Now a regular supply of tap water has replaced these water tankers.

  CONSERVING PRESERVING SOIL EROSIONCurrently, seven community ponds and 50 farm ponds provide irrigation to 1,000 farmers. Farm bunds and drains brought 200-acre additional land under cultivation. A total of 5602 Metric Ton soil is also saved from erosion. MSS conserved a total watershed area of 2500 hectares. It has constructed 36 kilometre long Continuous Contour Trenches (CCTs) to check rainwater from flowing down the Girad Tekri ( or hillock) over which is situated the Farid Baba Dargah. It has succeeded in conserving 9000 cubic metres of water during every monsoon by constructing Gulley Plugs, CCT stone bunds and several other measures to catch every raindrop falling on the hillock.
To prevent farmers from polluting and misusing water , Natural Farming wAS introduced to local farmers. These farmers use no chemicals, optimally utilize water, show noticeable rise in productivity and have saved the expenditure on chemical farm inputs, amounting to nearly 2.5 crore rupees.