Making khadi Tiranga: Women in Bengeri down but not out

Disappointed with government’s new diktat allowing the national flag to be made of polyester and in varying dimensions, the women continue to weave the Tiranga in khadi and hope for better days

Women manufacturing national flag in Bengeri, Dharwad district, Karnataka
Women manufacturing national flag in Bengeri, Dharwad district, Karnataka

Naheed Ataulla

For six months every year the 1,200 women employed by the Karnataka Khadi Gramodyog Samyukta Sangha (KKGSS) at Bengeri village in Dharwad wove the national flag with khadi for Independence Day. Over the next six months they would weave the flag for the Republic Day on January 26.

The central government changed the Flag Code in December 2021 and allowed textile mills to use polyester and various machine-made fabrics to manufacture national flags. With this, orders are flooding to the mills in Surat in Gujarat.

The Union and state governments, PSUs and government agencies are expected to buy more national flags this year to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence. The government’s ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign is also giving a major push to flag makers this year.

With the amendment to the flag code, polyester and machine- made flags will be available on e-commerce platforms for as little as Rs 38 against the khadi hand-spun flags which are more expensive with prices starting from Rs 380 and going up to Rs 2,000 per flag.

Till this year the KKGSS unit at Bengeri was the sole agency to make hand-woven national flags with khadi for the government.

After two years of pandemic, when manufacture of khadi flags had slowed down, KKGSS was hopeful of higher orders in anticipation of the ‘Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations to mark the75th year of India’s Independence. With the government’s announcement of hoisting the national flag one very house, the body speculated a spurt in demand and stocked khadi worth Rs 5 crore. But so far it has got orders that would utilise khadi worth Rs 1.20 crore only.

Under the campaign, the government has prescribed the flag size that can be hoisted (20X30 inches and 16x27 inches), which is not permitted under the Bureau of Indian Standards, which oversees the manufacture of flags by KKGSS.

The Congress in Karnataka has come to the aid of the KKGSS employees. ‘Let’s Spin’, a campaign to ensure that more khadi flags are used by people has been started by Congress block president of Vidyanagar in Hubballi, Rajat V Ullagaddimath from July 1. Writers, litterateurs, the Congress state unit and the seer of Moorusavari Mutt in Hubballi have extended support to the campaign, he informs.

Congress leader and MP Rahul Gandhi, who is due to visit Davanagere on August 3 for the 75th birthday celebrations of former chief minister Siddaramaiah is expected to drive down to Bengeri village which is 152 km from there.

Ullagaddimath points to the hazards of polyester and says that while khadi happens to be biodegradable, polyester would damage the soil. Torn and tattered flags, he points out, are prescribed to be disposed of by burning. And while in denial of Mahatma Gandhi’s injunction in favour of khadi, the government is also ensuring that the soil would be damaged, he complains.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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