Ban plastic tricolours, says MHA
NEW DELHI: The government has heeded pleas of environmentalists and also kept in mind the dignity of the national flag by advising ministries and states to ensure only paper is used in making small flags used by thousands on occasions like Independence and Republic Days.
If the urgency displayed by the home ministry trickles down to states, plastic-made national flags may soon be eased out with the bio-degradable paper ones replacing them. It would mark a big step towards improving green consciousness and save parks and grounds from subjected to plastic abuse. The ministry’s detailed advisory notes that paper flags be used at important national, cultural and sports events as plastic is harmful to the environment as it takes years to degrade during which time harmful residues seep into the ground.
The plastic waste “affects the dignity of the flag”, said the home ministry citing various provisions contained in the Flag Code of India, 2002, regarding display of the national flag. Environmentalists have complained that plastic national flag – specifically smaller ones often waved by the public during major national events – could not be disposed of in a manner consistent with the dignity of the flag. They are often strewn around the ground of an event and trampled underfoot.
Although plastics are removed from garbage for recycling in India, practical problems in disposing of such products is a major issue in urban areas. Grounds and open spaces polluted by plastic sticking out of soil are a common sight. Finding merit in the green plea to restrict plastic, the ministry has requested states to “ensure that on important national, cultural and sports events only flags made of paper are used by public in terms of the provisions of the Flag Code of India and such paper flags are not discarded or thrown on the ground after the event”.
It also said such flags, as far as possible, should be disposed of in private in keeping with the dignity of the flag. Though the ministry has not set a deadline, it has called on states and ministries to give due consideration to the measures suggested. The Code says, “When the flag is in a damaged or soiled condition, it shall be destroyed as a whole in private, preferably by burning or by any other method consistent with the dignity of the flag”.
The Code also has penal provision under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour (Amendment) Act, 2003 in case of any violation. The law provides for imprisonment for a term up to three years for anyone who “in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National Flag.”
If the government wants to ban plastic flags because of environmental concerns it may have a point. As part of a larger move to minimize the use of plastics, such a move could make sense. However, to impose a ban on the grounds that the dignity of the flag is compromised by plastic flags which are often discarded on the ground after use seems a dubious logic. Little paper or cloth flags could just as well meet the same fate. Also, anything that allows the aam admi to proudly and voluntarily display the flag enhances its prestige, it does not belittle it. Mass produced flags are likely to be discarded but they also symbolize the genuine desire of citizens to wear their nationalism on their sleeve, as it were.