Mahatma Gandhi's image of weaving khadi on a 'spinning wheel' had become an iconic image of India's freedom movement. (Getty)
The image of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and not Mahatma Gandhi, dons the cover of table diaries and wall calendars printed by an Indian government-controlled khadi commission, a move that has sparked widespread public criticism.
The government-controlled Khadi and Village Industries Commission's decision seems surprising because Mahatma Gandhi, the figurehead of India's independence movement, had imbued special significance to khadi and the country's freedom struggle. Khadi, a handspun fabric primarily made of cotton, was introduced by Gandhi as a political weapon against Britain's rule in 1920.
Unlike previous years, KVIC calendars and diaries have replaced the symbolic image of Gandhi weaving khadi on a charkha (spinning wheel) with Modi working on a modern version of the charkha, according to The Economic Times.
The sudden change has been widely condemned on Twitter, with users calling the move 'disgusting' and expressing alarm over the upending of the annual tradition.
Sourabh Jain sardonically tweets in Hindi that "his country is changing".
Karuna Sanghvi (her Twitter handle being @karunasanghvi) was more scathing, saying it is the "biggest insult to Indian nation (sic) and its values". Other tweets were on similar lines, denouncing KVIC's decision.
KVIC was formed by the federal government in 1956 to facilitate development of khadi and village industries.
Khadi retains its importance in modern India because it is a labour-intensive industry, a characteristic that suits the country, which boasts of having a population of 1.3 billion.
The federal government keeps providing rebates to the sector. It assists the khadi industry by allowing 10 per cent rebate throughout the year and an additional 10 per cent rebate for 108 days of the year to stimulate the sector's growth and keep the fabric competitive in the market.