Kolkata/Sambalpur: Thirty-six-year-old Jignesh Thakkar, a businessman from Shyambazar area will start making the rounds of areas in the vicinity of his residence, collecting the National Flag (s) lying on the streets after the Republic Day celebration is over. It’s not the first time that he will be doing so. Jignesh has been doing so for the past five years.
Man on a Mission
Speaking to eNewsroom, he says, “We celebrate Republic Day and Independence Day with such pomp, but once the celebration is over, we leave the flags strewn all over the streets. I was disturbed by this disrespect. So, five years back, I took a call. I would set out on the streets of Shyambazar, Maniktalla, MG Road Crossing among others with an empty box clamped on to my bike. I collect or pick up flags lying on the streets or other unlikely places, irrespective of it being clean or dirty. Once I am done with the collection, take them to a quiet place and retire them in accordance with the Flag Code of India, 2002.”
With Jignesh posting pictures of him doing the needful to the National Flags once the celebration is over, his work was not just appreciated by many but a couple of enthusiastic youths got in touch with him, expressing their desire to work with him as a team. “Many youths contacted me on messenger wanting to participate in this bi-annual ritual of mine. It’s really heartening to see a couple of them replicating the same,” said Jignesh, who has even sent out a public message to the people of Kolkata to assemble near Shyambazar crossing at 4 am sharp on January 27 to do some service to the nation.
Inspiring Fellow Indians
Sheikh Imran, a Kolkata-based banking professional, and a classmate of Jignesh was inspired by him and will be joining him to retire the National Flag with respect. He says, “I was immensely inspired by Jignesh and have joined him in this mission of his since August 15, 2017. We now have a small team. We meet near Shyambazar and then split into smaller groups visiting different areas to collect the flags strewn on the streets. It makes the collection easier. Once we have collected the flags in a box, we set off to an undisclosed place to retire the flags with dignity.”
It’s not just Imran, but also Sambalpur’s Firoz Ashraf, who will be out with his group on the streets of Sambalpur collecting flags. He says, “We will particularly be visiting parade ground and schools once the Republic Day celebrations are over to collect the flags left behind on the streets. I think Indians need to be sensitized about our National Flag. We can’t just salute it during the celebration and then leave it lying on the floor. Where does our nationalism disappear? Why don’t we collect it and retire it in a proper way.”
Plastic Flags a Menace
The biggest concern for these men is the plastic flags, which sold in scores during Independence Day and Republic Day. “It is very difficult to retire the plastic flags. It’s good that the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a ban on plastic flags. But whether people will pay heed to the directive, only time will tell. We have tried sensitizing people about not using plastic flags, but it hasn’t really helped. We are hopeful of the government directive bringing about the change, but we will get to the ground reality when we go for the flag collection on January 27´summed up Jignesh.
Right Way to Retire the National Flag
Most of these men who set to collect flags post Independence and Republic Day celebration feel that most Indians lack the awareness when it comes to retiring the National flag. “It’s best to use traditional flags made of cloth. These can be washed and reused unlike the plastic ones, which are harmful to the environment too,” says Jignesh.
However, on being asked to elaborate on the method, he didn’t reveal much. But a little bit of research on the internet reveals that according to Part II-2.2(xiii) clause of the Flag Code, a damaged or soiled flag needs to collected and destroyed in private, preferably by burning after being placed in a box. Burying is another option, however, one needs to understand that burying may lead to resurfacing.