Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangh (F) (KKGSS), the only authorised centre for production of national flags in the country, is the pride of Hubballi. It has a tough task at hand, as non-compliance of guidelines can land its staff in jail. The unit is located in Bengeri. A team of ardent Gandhians and khadi lovers set up KKGSS in 1957 on 17 acres. The KKGSS federation has been serving the people, not only of Hubballi-Dharwad, but also across the country and abroad. Initially, it also had units for ready-made garments, a bed unit, an aluminium utensils unit, carpentry and black smith unit, a regional dye house unit, Prakurutika Sadhanalaya, a yoga center and All India Khadi Gramodyog Vidyalaya (Textile Chemistry) on its premises. Since 2002, the KKGSS was trying to get the (BIS) certification over the making of national flags making. But it was only in February 2006 that it got the certification, along with the authorisation to sell flags across the country. It was after that that the center became a unique national flag-production center in the country.
The BIS has set guidelines for standard design and execution of the flags. It should be made of handspun and handwoven cotton khadi bunting. Earlier, the national flag was not prepared according to the BIS norms.
Shivanand Mathapati, secretary of KKGSS federation, who is associated with the Khadi Federation for over 30 years, says, “It’s not easy to produce national flags according to the BIS guidelines. If there is any defect found in colour, size, thread count, strength of yarn or fastness of dyes, it will be considered a serious offence and we will be liable for a fine or imprisonment. Getting the BIS certification was like a new birth for our unit, since we started to work hard to meet the public requirements. Once the yarn and cloth are prepared with handlooms and spinners (charkha), the material is sent to Hubballi.”
Elaborating on the process, Shivanand says, “In Bengeri, the unit diagnoses the cloth. After the processes of bleaching, dyeing, cutting, stitching and tagging, the flags are shipped to be sold. Currently, nearly 250 spinners and weavers work in Tulasigere, Jalihal and Hubballi to prepare the yarn, cloth and national flags. Earlier, it was very difficult to hire people, but after the new incentive programme introduced by the state government to weavers, they now approach us in large numbers.”
Shivanand adds that it is against the use of non-khadi flags. “People and children should stop using plastic and polyester flags, as they add to pollution. It is like insulting our country. Everyone must only use flags that comply with the BIS specification. We are creating awareness among the people to use our flags. We have also begun preparing smaller-sized flags that can be used by children. But the government has to also take initiatives to create awareness,” he says.
When they started out, there were only five handlooms, but the number has gone up to 55; the spinners (charkas) have increased to 20. Accordingly, the number of staff has also increased from 30 to 250. In the first year after receiving the BIS certification (2005-06), the center produced 10,314 flags in different nine sizes specified in the BIS, of which 5,433 flags were sold. From then on, the sale of national flags gradually increased, but for the first time, a major rise in the sale of national flags was reported in 2013-14, when the state government passed an order to all gram panchayats in the state to hoist the national flag. In that year, the sales amounted to over `1 crore. The sale of the national flag has been on the rise since.
Annapurna, a fashion design diploma holder, who manages the unit, says, “I feel very proud that the President and Prime Minister salute the national flag that is prepared at the KKGSS flag production center in Bengeri, where I work. When you compare it, stitching regular dress materials is very different when stitching national flags — it is very difficult. The thread used to stitch the flag is very thick when compared to other threads. The measurements can get varied easily, so we have to stitch very carefully.”
Elaborating on the challenges that the workers face, Annapurna says, “People come here to work with enthusiasm, but find it hard to maintain the specifications of the flags. This results in them quitting. The thought of leaving this job has never crossed my mind, because I am doing something for my country.”
– Manjunath Somaraddi
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