Where will the flags go?

Monday Musing

[ Tongam Rina ]

My nephew has been using my aged car lately. Him being a busy young man, I rarely see him or the car. But yesterday I met him while he was rushing to catch a bus to Pasighat.

“I repaired your car and also bought a flag,” he said while hugging me bye.

If there is one campaign that has reached the nook and corner of the urban parts of the state, it has to be the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, an initiative of the Modi government to celebrate the 75th Independence Day of India.

Flags and wearing your patriotism on your sleeves is big business now. Flags come in all shapes, sizes, prices and materials. Khadi flags are now passé.

There are happy buyers, like my nephew, and the government of Arunachal.

My nephew bought the flag from a shop for Rs 150, while the government of Arunachal is buying flags at Rs 25 from a private manufacturer – Shahi Exports Private Limited, appointed by the government of India. Fifteen district administrations have ordered more than 2 lakh flags at a cost of Rs 56 lakhs plus.

There is no reason why a cash-strapped state government should waste such a huge amount of money.

While the government may pick the tab on patriotism, what happens to the flags after 15 August, when they are likely to end up in garbage dumps, roadsides, rivers and streams? Will the next campaign be called ‘Save Har Tiranga?’, or ‘Clean up Har Nallah?

Yours truly is not keen on such a show of patriotism.

I would rather have a 75th Independence Day where children and vulnerable adults are safe from diarrhoea and malnutrition. Nine children in the age group of 3-7 years died in Pongkong village, following an outbreak of diarrhoea and dysentery, from 17 to 25 July, while two adults also died of diarrhoea in Longliang in Lazu block of Tirap district.

An official from the health department attributed these deaths to lack of proper nutrition among children and lack of hygiene and the practice of open defecation in the area.

These deaths could have been prevented had the government taken the nutrition for anganwadis and schoolchildren under the midday meal scheme seriously. It’s criminal that children are dying for lack of nutrition and preventable and treatable health conditions.

Why are people still defecating in the open when Arunachal has declared itself an ‘open defecation-free’ state in 2017? It’s not new for the government to fudge figures, but the recent deaths in Lazu circle are an indicator that the government has failed to reach out to the most vulnerable. How is it justifiable that children and aged are dying of diarrhoea? The government and the district administrations, the education and health departments must put in the same zeal in saving lives as their enthusiasm in flying hundreds of Indian flags made of polyesters when all one needed was one decent khadi one.

While we celebrate the 75th Independence Day, it is also time to pay homage to the workers who died in Huri while connecting one of the farthest corners of Arunachal. Nine of them have perished. Their families will never get any closure, even though they know that their loved ones have died. The state government should make sure that the BRO pays them compensation and also ensure that workers are treated with respect, paid well and allowed to go home for festivities. The BRO is notorious for ill-treating and underpaying workers, which is unacceptable.

May this 75th year of independence guide the government and its agents with the wisdom to choose what is best for its people. Happy Independence Day.