India’s post-Independence Day flag problem

Indians bought over 200m flags for national celebration – but what should be done with them now?

India’s Independence Day celebrations
Strict rules govern how the Indian national flag should be disposed of
(Image credit: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP)

Hundreds of millions of national flags were bought and proudly displayed in the run-up to India’s Independence Day this week – but the country has been left with the thorny issue of how to dispose of them.

“Across streets and rooftops, from mansions to huts and even remote outposts on mountains”, the Indian flag has been on display across the nation following Independence Day celebrations, which marked the 75th anniversary of India gaining independence from Britain, said The Guardian.

Amid strong encouragement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fly the flag, strict rules regulating how and when the flag could be flown were deliberately relaxed by the government – and an “enthusiastic” response from the public meant that more than 200 million flags were bought, according to estimates from the culture ministry.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The issue now is how these flags should be safely disposed of, as simply throwing the Indian flag into a bin is considered sacrilegious. Disrespecting the flag is a crime punishable by up to three years in jail or a fine, or both, said The Guardian.

What are the options?

Indians who wish to dispose of their flag properly have two options under India’s National Flag Code 2022, which is a legally binding set of rules relating to the flag. They can either bury it or burn it.

Times Now, an Indian news outlet, offered some advice for disposing of Indian flags properly. If flag owners opt to bury their flags, they must “collect all the damaged flags in a wooden box”, folding and placing them properly inside it. Flag owners must “observe a moment of silence” once the flags are buried in the ground.

Those opting to burn their flags must find a clean, safe space to do it, where a fire can be built. The flags must be folded and placed in “the centre of the flames”. Times Now warns that “flags burned without folding or burning them directly is an offence”.

But many may simply choose to keep their flags flying. Taxi driver Kailash Kishore told The Guardian that he had no intention of removing the flag attached to the roof of his car as part of Independence Day celebrations.

“I won’t remove it at all. Once it gets torn and doesn’t look good, I will put it in my living room. Then maybe in the garden, but I’m not going to get rid of it,” he said.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.