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| Last Updated:22/07/2021

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Odisha asks officials to ensure plastic national flags are not used

NEW DELHI: Taking the lead in heeding the Centre's advice backed by concerns expressed by environmentalists and a court order, the Odisha government has issued directions to district authorities to ensure that no plastic tri-colour is used during celebration of Republic Day, Independence Day or other important days in the state. 

Though other states including Maharashtra and Karnataka had also issued similar directions in the past, such an order could not be implemented due to lack of monitoring mechanism at local level. 

Unlike other states, Odisha has asked district civil and police authorities to depute officers specifically for this job so that the state high court order was followed and the national flag was used, made and distributed as per the national flag code. 

Acting on a writ petition, the HC had in August last year directed the state government to take steps to prevent sale and distribution of the tri-colour made of any other material barring those permitted under the 
Flag Code of India, 2002. 

The code specifies that the national flag should be made of cotton, wool, silk or paper. It also has penal provision under the Prevention of Insults to National Hounor (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, trample upon or otherwise shows disrespect or bring into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the 
Indian national flag". 

Months before the court order, the Centre too had advised all states and Union Territories to issue directions for not using national flags made of plastic. 

Referring to concerns expressed by environmentalists, the Union home ministry had in 2012 issued an advisory insisting the use of only paper in making flags which are waved by common people during important national, cultural and sports events. It also advised that such flags, as far as possible, should be disposed of in private, consistent with the dignity of the flag. 

Noting that plastic was harmful to the environment, the ministry in its note said plastic flags were not biodegradable like paper flags and did not get destroyed for a long time (making it vulnerable to be left on ground at venues of cultural and sports events). 

"This affects the dignity of the flag", said the ministry, taking note of the concerns expressed by the green activists who complained that flags made of plastic - specifically miniature ones which are often waved during national, cultural and sports events - could often end up on the ground and tampered (even un-intentionally) under feet of passers-by.

The Times of India (20-01-2014)