Within just about three months after the national capital got its highest flagpole installed at the Central Park in Delhi, disagreement has now surfaced over who will bear the maintenance cost, running into lakhs of rupees, to keep the tricolour flying.
The tricolour, which is 90 feet wide and 60 feet long and flies atop a 207-foot flagpole at Connaught Place, was put up jointly by Naveen Jindal's Flag Foundation of India (FFI) and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in March.
According to the FFI, which is at present bearing the maintenance cost, the organisation was responsible till the flag was hoisted, since then all expenses were to be borne by the agency on whose land it was installed in this case, NDMC.
"According to the practice, once we gift the tricolour to a particular agency or individual, then it is their responsibility to take care of the expenditure. We have put up 56 such flags across the country, and the organisation on whose land a flag has been hoisted bears the expense," said a senior FFI official.
While the FFI maintains that it is the civic agency's responsibility, NDMC officials claim the decision that the Flag Foundation will take care of all the expenses was taken before the flag was put up.
"It was pre-decided that FFI will bear the expenditure.
We had told them before installing the flag that NDMC will not take care of any expense other than lights (installed to illuminate the tricolour)," a senior NDMC official said.
The NDMC is only bearing the expenditure of the halogen lights installed to illuminate the flag during night, while other maintenance costs are now being borne by the FFI.
According to the FFI, the expenses include Rs 52,000 per month for three guards who man the structure round-the-clock, Rs 8,000-10,000 for one-time repair of the flag as and when required, Rs 64,000 for a new flag, the cost of CCTV cameras installed around it, and other miscellaneous expenses.
The FFI has written a letter to NDMC to bear the rest of the expenditure. According to FFI officials, the civic agency has been "non-committal" in its response and has instead asked the FFI to bear the expenses.
"The flag got damaged many a times. Sometimes it is reparable, sometimes we have to replace it. A single flag costs Rs 64,000. Also, initially there were cases when people used to mount the pole and write something. We had to paint it," the FFI official said.
Thereafter, the FFI has constructed a four-foot-high steel enclosure and the entry is restricted beyond it. According to the official, the construction cost of the enclosure came around Rs 4 lakh.
The FFI official said that this is the first time it is facing such a problem with a government agency.
"For example, the Jaipur Development Authority bears the maintenance costs as the flag stands on their land. Same is the case with other agencies across the country who have requested us to put up the structure," the official said.
"In the national interest and as a goodwill gesture, the FFI continues to bear the expenses. Though we are awaiting a positive response from NDMC," he said.
The FFI has also revamped the area around the structure.
It has put up several write-ups on national symbols with their pictures such as the Ganga, peacock and tiger.
"Within the Central Park, there should be a Tiranga Park..." the official said, adding that they had received several requests to keep the park open beyond 9pm.
The future plans of the organisation include making the area more lively and evoking a patriotic culture by allowing bands of paramilitary forces to perform on weekends.