I-Day flag distribution campaign leads to concerns over disposal

Updated on Aug 12, 2022 09:56 AM IST

Residents have legitimate concerns about whether these flags would be disposed of in a dignified and safe manner once the celebrations are over

New Delhi, India - Aug. 11, 2022: A hawker selling Indian flags ahead of Independence Day celebrations at Ring Road in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, August 11, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
New Delhi, India - Aug. 11, 2022: A hawker selling Indian flags ahead of Independence Day celebrations at Ring Road in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, August 11, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

With several thousands of households, streets, markets and offices expected to be adorned with the national flag between August 13 and August 15, as part of the “Har Ghar Tiranga (tricolour on every household)” campaign to mark the 75th year of Independence, residents have legitimate concerns about whether these flags would be disposed of in a dignified and safe manner once the celebrations are over.

The urban local bodies in the national capital have announced large-scale tricolour distribution plans with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi alone expected to distribute two million flags -- made of cloth -- for decorating more than 1,000 office buildings and public places.

Across India, the Central government estimates that more than 200 million households will hoist cloth flags and to that end, there has been an unprecedented demand for flags over the past month, said shopkeepers and manufacturers.

However, the Flag Code of India, 2002, mandates that flags must not be simply disposed of along with municipal waste but need to be buried or burnt as a whole in private.

Atul Goyal, who heads of United Residents Joint Action URJA, a civil society initiative of 2,500 residents’ welfare associations, said, “Every year, we see that once Independence and Republic Day celebrations are over, a large number of tiny flags end up on roads and streets. All public representatives and former councilors are distributing flags but there is no clarity on how these will be collected back or whether collection drives will be held for torn or damaged flags. We have a fear that many of them will end up on streets or mixed with municipal waste. It is a big challenge and distributors should also hold drives with the help of RWAs to collect back flags,” he said.

According to the Flag Code, while there is no restriction on display of the national flag by members of the general public, private organisations, educational institutions, etc, there are clear guidelines on the manner in which they can be hoisted and the dignified manner in which they have to be disposed of.

Section 2.2 (xiii) and Section 3.25 of the code state that when the flag is damaged or soiled, it shall be destroyed as a whole in private, preferably by burning or by any method consistent with the dignity of flag. In no case, can a damaged or torn flag be allowed to remain on display and it should not be cast aside or disrespectfully disposed of, the code states.

Swati Sambyal , a waste management expert based in Delhi said that people should preferably choose sustainable long term options such as cloth flags and store them well so as to prevent damage or soiling. After use, they should folded and put aside for the next year. Despite a ban on single use plastic items, plastic flags are available and people should refrain from buying them,” she said.

The Flag Foundation of India, an organisation which has been working to popularise the display of the tricolour, recommends that old, unclean and torn flags be destroyed in private by burying them deep or by immersing them in the Ganga duly folded.

Meanwhile, people will also be able to reach out to the municipal corporation’s zonal helplines and deposit torn/soiled flags with sanitary inspectors. The civic body will ensure that these are disposed of as per the guidelines of home ministry.

“We have instructed all zonal offices for proper disposal of the national flag. Field staff have been directed that in case any flag is found soiled, distorted and damaged, then it will be deposited in the zonal control room by the sanitary inspector of the ward and zone concerned. Thereafter, these would be disposed of as per the directions issued by the ministry of home affairs,” an MCD official said, asking not to be named.

The zonal helpline numbers and details of ward sanitation officials can be accessed on the corporation website.

The civic body plans to deploy its education department for distributing 560,000 flags among the public while 1.4 million flags will be sent to the 12 administrative zones -- 1.2 lakh for each zone.

MCD oversees 272 wards spread over 12 zones-- Centre, South, West, Najafgarh, Rohini, Civil Lines, Karol Bagh, SP-City, Keshavpuram, Narela, Shahdara North & Shahdara South.

The New Delhi Municipal Council has started the installations of over 10,500 national flags at 100 roads, intersections, entrance of parks, and roundabouts in Lutyens’ Delhi from August 13 to 15.

Market associations and RWAs are also being roped in to increase the coverage under the campaign. A senior NDMC official said tenders issued by the council have a component for safe and dignified disposal of flags by burning or burying.

Satish Upadhyay, vice-chairman of the council, said civic staff will ensure that flags are collected and disposed of. “If any defects are noticed in the flags provided to residents, they can complain or inform us at our control room number 1533. NDMC will deposit the defective flag at the control room in Palika Kendra, Sansad Marg,” he said.

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