Amendment to Flag Code has khadi activists upset

Khadi Sanghas, activists write to PM and HM on the move to allow non-khadi material for national flag

April 30, 2022 08:27 pm | Updated 08:27 pm IST - BELAGAVI/HUBBALLI

Flags being sewed at Karnataka Khadi Gramodyog Samyukta Sangh in Hubballi.

Flags being sewed at Karnataka Khadi Gramodyog Samyukta Sangh in Hubballi. | Photo Credit: File photo

Every time the tricolour fluttered over the Red Fort in New Delhi, the people of North Karnataka had a reason to feel proud, as the hand spun, hand woven khadi flag was made in the country’s sole BIS-approved flag manufacturing unit in Hubballi.  

However, the Union Government’s recent move to amend the National Flag Code, allowing polyester and imported cloth, has come as a shocker to many. Khadi activists are up in arms against the Centre for making an amendment that they consider a “sacrilege”. They contend that the move will only dilute the definition of khadi but also undermine the spirit of freedom struggle.

As per rule 1. 2 of part 1 of the Flag code of India 2002, only khadi or hand-spun cloth was the material for the flag. Use of other material was punishable. But the recent amendment has changed it to “The National Flag shall be made of hand spun and hand woven or machine made, cotton, polyester, wool, silk khadi bunting.” That means machine made polyester that is made in India or imported from elsewhere can now be used for the tricolour.

Basic tenet

Taking strong exception to the move, the Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha (KKGSS) at Bengeri in Hubballi, which runs the lone BIS-approved flag making unit has already written to Prime Minister and Home Minister of India. “We have also urged Union Minister Pralhad Joshi to take up the issue with the Centre. It is not just the flag that will be affected but the whole of khadi sector. The basic tenet of khadi has been attacked,” says Shivanand Mathapathi, secretary of KKGSS.

“This will be the last nail in the coffin of handmade products and household industries,” says Gandhian and khadi activist Dilip Kamat. His father Srirangdhar Kamat was a freedom fighter and was jailed. “There is a reason why khaddar cloth was mandated for national flag. While national flag is a symbol of our freedom and sovereignty, the khaddar signifies the spirit of the freedom struggle. It was meant to convey the meaning that we had won the fight against the mighty British Empire using the humble charkha as the weapon,” he said, adding that this symbolism needs to be preserved.

Question of livelihood

“The amendment will snatch livelihoods of thousands of poor rural women who are engaged in various stages of khadi cloth production, dying, and stitching the flags,’’ said Subhash Kulkarni, president of the District Khadi Sangha.

Prasanna, theatre person and an activist promoting Khadi and handmade products, said It is shameful that we are trying to allow machine made polyester and imported cloth in the national flag... The government’s decision amounts to trampling over the sacredness of the national flag and thereby the spirit of India. We would protest strongly against this.”

“The Union Government is trying to subvert the Constitution,” argued Sarala Satpute, young activist working for the welfare of the weaver community. “Among our fundamental duties listed in the Constitution is ‘To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom’. Khadi reflects these ideals,’’ she said.

Intricate details

There are other intricate details about the making of the flag in the Flag Code. They include the rule that there should be exactly 150 threads per square centimetre, four threads per stitch, and one square foot should weigh exactly 205 gm (or 7.2 oz).

The code has been amended earlier too. The original flag code of India 1947 was amended in 2002 after a Supreme Court judgment. This expanded the definition of places where the flag could be displayed or hoisted. However, part one of the code that deals with the description of the flag had remained untouched.

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