'If you want to change everything all of a sudden to polyester, then the production of khadi flags will come under trouble.'
The Narendra Damodardas Modi government's decision to allow polyester to be used for making India's national flag has not gone down well with many sections of society.
The move has come at a time when Modi plans to celebrate the country's 75th year of Independence with a Har Ghar Tiranga campaign, encouraging every house in the country to hoist the Tricolour from August 13 to 15, 2022.
This has upset traditional khadi industries as they were the only ones allowed to produce the Tricolour under the Indian National Flag Code.
"Let the government first buy our unsold khadi Tricolour first," K V Kattar, chairman, Karnataka Khadi Gramodyog Samyukta Sangha, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
Why are you opposing the government decision on changes in the Flag Code?
Previously, there was a National Flag Code of India 2002 and according to that code, the national flag should be made of hand-spun and woven wool or cotton or silk khadi bunting.
The Khadi Village Industries Commission was the only statutory entity established by an Act of Parliament having the right to make the Tricolour.
The Modi government amended the National Flag Code by stating that the national flag can be produced by machines. polyester flags are now allowed, which goes against the ethos of our freedom movement.
What is wrong with polyester?
One has to understand that khadi is a symbol of our nation and a symbol of freedom. (Mahatma Gandhi used khadi as a symbol against British imperial rule).
And now if you want to change everything all of a sudden to polyester, then the production of khadi flags will come under trouble.
All the institutions of KVIC, which are operational now, will close down and thousands of artisans will become jobless.
Will people not buy khadi flags, you fear?
The rates of polyester flags are less as compared to cotton khadi and handmade khadi tricolour.
Customers will only purchase the polyester Tricolour, which will be cheaper.
Moreover, for khadi flags, we have a Bureau of Indian Standard mark while producing the national flags. Polyester flags, which will be made elsewhere, will not have this mark. They will be flags with a non-BSI mark.
How many flags are made in a year by your institution?
In my federation, we make national flags worth Rs 4 crore (Rs 40 million).
The numbers of flags will be difficult to assess for every year because we have different sizes of flags.
The government wants every home in India to have a tricolour while celebrating 75 years of Independence. Do khadi institutions have the capacity to distribute crores of national flags in such a short span of time?
Let the government first buy our unsold khadi Tricolour first.
In my federation, we have sold flags worth only Rs 70 lakh (Rs 7 million) till now for this year.
We have flags worth Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) lying in our godowns and the government is not buying them.
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission is a part of the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprise which is a part of the Government of India, and still they are not buying them.
They tell us now that khadi rates are high.
Is that the reason why national flags worth Rs 2 crore are lying unsold in your godowns in Karnataka?
This is one of the reasons and as far as I have heard, they want to import polyester flags from China (external link).
That is the message circulating on social media. Is the government really importing national flags from China?
I got a message that the government is now producing national flags in Gujarat (from private entities).
Who is producing these flags?
Previously, only khadi institutions approved by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission were allowed to make the national flag.
Now by bringing polyester material into the national flag, private parties too can produce the national flag.
We are running short of time for the 75th Independence Day celebrations. Do khadi institutions have the capacity to produce, say, a crore (10 milion) national flags by then?
We cannot produce that many flags, but what is in our capacity, we can surely supply those many flags.
Our request to the government is first you clear the unsold national flags in our khadi industry worth Rs 2 crore.
Where are these national flags now?
They have been kept in our godowns.
We have been writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah seeking their immediate intervention in this matter, but there has been no response from them yet.
Moreover, they have made a target of buying a small number of Tricolour from us till this year only and that too because of the 75th year of Independence. We don't know what will happen next year.
If they are permitting private people to make the national flags, such a move will kill the khadi industry.
It is difficult to buy our flag in India, isn't it?
It is because our Constitution says so. It says how the national flag has to be displayed and how it should be preserved. There are guidelines for it.
And now they are amending the National Flag Act and also giving contrary statements like 'Make-in-India'.
What is going on?
Society changes, technology changes. Don't you feel it is better to adopt polyester rather than just sticking to khadi?
We can also produce polyester, but are not allowed to at the moment.
Moreover, we cannot change and adapt to new things overnight.
We have KVIC which decides everything for us. We don't have the right to take decisions on such things.