BMC lands in controversy after former Mumbai Mayor says tricolours being distributed free violated Flag Code

Kishori Pednekar claimed that national flags being distributed in Mumbai as part of Centre’s 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign were disproportionate and even Ashoka Chakra was not placed in center

Kishori Pednekar holding up a 'defective' national flag
Kishori Pednekar holding up a 'defective' national flag
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Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent Rs 6.12 crore to procure 35 lakh national flags, with 15 lakh more flags on the anvil, in order to distribute them free to every citizen of Mumbai in keeping with the Centre’s 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign. It plans to splurge about Rs 30 crore more to create awareness on the subject through hoardings, banners, messages on BEST buses and social media platforms.

But even as these 50 lakh-odd free flags are being distributed to every house, office and business site to celebrate the 75th Independence Day, former Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar met Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal to complain about alleged violations of the Flag Code and the Constitution by the flag manufacturers and BMC employees.

Controversy emerged after the BMC began distribution of free flags to Mumbai’s citizens and it was discovered that there proportions were distorted even as the Ashoka Chakra itself was not placed at the center. The three stripes on the flag are also disproportionate.

Even as the authorities claimed that 500 hoardings on the road and 400 bus shelters had been identified to create awareness among Mumbai’s citizens on the importance of hoisting the flag, it turns out that Chahal –administrator for the municipal corporation whose elected body has been dissolved pending fresh elections – singlehandedly took the decision to distribute 50 lakh flags free to each household in the city to celebrate the 75th Independence Day on parallel lines with Delhi.

BMC officials claimed that it was entirely at his discretion that free distribution of flags to households, business sites and offices is underway. There were no orders from the state government, outgoing or incoming, in this regard, they contended.

"The decision was an outcome of the guidelines issued by the Central government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. After a meeting of officials held on July 22, Chahal decided to procure and distribute 50 lakh free flags through the BMC,” said an official.

Incidentally, the initial tab for order came to Rs. 16 crore. However, the price was later reduced.

The stock of 50 lakh flags received by the BMC is manufactured by 'Alok Industry' in Gujarat. The BMC has also asked many other non-government organisations and corporate sectors to procure flags for the BMC.

The distribution of flags is being done from August 6 to 12, in time for citizens to hoist the flag from August 13 to 15, informed the senior official. Most flags had already been distributed by Thursday.

The BMC official said, “The available data with me shows Rs. 6.12 crore for 35 lakh flags has already been spent; remaining will be procured by others as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.”

So far, BMC is the only municipal body providing flags for free. The corporations at Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kalyan-Dombivli will procure a limited number of flags and sell them at cost price to citizens at vantage points. Each flag will cost an average of Rs 50. There will be no door-to-door distribution of flags by them.

In her written complaint to Chahal, submitted on August 10, Pednekar sought strict legal action against the person/company which manufactured and supplied these flags to BMC.

“The Indian national flags which are currently being distributed by the BMC fail to obey or follow the specific rules and regulations as mentioned in above point no 4 (of letter) inter alia pertaining to the cloth on which they are printed. The outer size of the flags is not in proportion, the inner size of tricolour flags does not have equal widths (the stripes are not proportionate), the spacing of strokes of Ashoka Chakras are not proper and, moreover, the Ashoka Chakra is itself not placed in the center of our national flag,” she wrote.

“It is to bring on record that even on a plain observation this can be evident. I have received complaints from the citizens of the same. They have pointed out that the free flag distributed by the BMC employees is of defective manufacturing and even after having knowledge of the same and sanely understanding the same, the manufacturing and supplying company hasn't stopped its distribution. This shameful, dishonourable and disgraceful act amounts to intentional and knowledgeable acts by the manufacturing/supplying company and additionally it shall also be considered as an act against the country as it amounts to disrespecting and insulting our national flag and our Constitution. The manufacturing company in order to earn extra profit is dishonouring the pride and honour of millions of citizens,” she added.

“The manufacturing of flags is done on roto fabric of a quality of cloth that seems like polyester or nylon and this is not allowed as per my knowledge. These orders for making use of roto fabric material for flags that are manufactured in Surat, Gujarat and are ordered by the Union Ministry of Textile,” alleged Prakash Sakpal, a Shiv Sena leader accompanying the former mayor.

Pednekar said she was also concerned that citizens flying these defective flags are liable to be prosecuted by the police even as the manufacturer might go scot-free.

"The citizens will have to bear the brunt," she remarked.

Incidentally, the flags have been distributed without the flag staff which is leading to further violation of the Flag Code, with people dumping the fabric in the most unsavoury of places. Many homes are too poor to afford to buy flag staffs for just temporary use.

“The initiative is laudable, but such issues defeat the purpose,” RTI activist Anil Galgali said.

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