The Union Government amended the Flag Code of India in December 2021 to allow the manufacture of polyester and machine-made national flags. Ever since independence, Indians flags were required to be made from khadi – that is, handwoven from handspun cotton, silk, or wool yarn. The recent amendment is purportedly meant to increase the availability of flags for the government’s “Har Ghar Tiranga” programme to celebrate 75 years of Indian independence.
However, this move betrays the cherished values of our freedom struggle, which was fought with khadi as a symbolic inspiration. As we will see, this repudiation of khadi also encapsulates how successive governments in independent India have effectively worked to destroy the much larger handloom sector whose ambit extends well beyond khadi.
Seven and a half decades after 1947, the widespread manufacture and use of polyester and machine-made flags in lieu of khadi ones should give us pause to reflect on the crucial story of Indian textiles.
Textiles occupy a big chunk of our economy. Their threads run through the lives of millions of cotton farmers and workers who produce cloth, as well as through our environmental fate. Intimately woven into the everyday fabric of Indian life, the story of our textiles illuminates how…