Since Sunday afternoon, the country’s largest Tricolour has been stuck on its flagpole at Ranchi’s Pahari Mandir in such a way that it appears to be flying at half-mast. Officials said a snag in the pulley system is to blame.
The flag, which weighs 60 kg and measures 99×66 feet, is put up on a flagpost 293 feet tall. It was unveiled on January 23 by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Currently, it is stuck at around 260 feet.
The Pahari Mandir Samiti, headed by Ranchi Deputy Commissioner Manoj Kumar, has been working overtime to fix the situation, but in vain. On Wednesday, a team of Army personnel was called in to assess the situation.
From a distance, the flag appears to be flying at half-mast — something that is done when the nation is in mourning. Doing so on any other occasion is considered disrespectful towards the flag.
“Some people and organisations are trying to prove we don’t respect the flag and have allowed it to fly at that height for the last three days. That’s not true. A team of experts from Mecon India Limited and the company which provided the flag have been on the job,” said Kumar.
J K Jha, project management consultant at Mecon India Limited, said, “The rope that takes the flag up got dislocated from the pulley system at the top of the flagpost. We are not able to move it up or down.”
Engineers tried applying immense pressure through a motor to pull down the 8-mm steel rope. “So firmly is the rope
stuck that the motor’s gear box gave way. The problem is that the other side of the rope remains hidden within the mast,” said Jha.
Cutting the rope is not an option. “If we cut it from the lower side, the flag will sway and become unmanageable, and we won’t be able to bring it down. We thought we could do it from the top but the rope is strong. We can’t risk it as the shaft might give way,” said a Mecon expert.
Eventually, they arrived at two possible solutions: Calling in the Army, which has expert climbers, or putting up scaffoldings that can take men up to 80 metres, from where the flag can be brought down.
“The Army team reached Wednesday evening. The scaffolding material is being collected. The whole process is likely to take three or four days,” said Deepak Agarwal, convenor of the Samiti.
Mukesh Agarwal, spokesperson for the Samiti, said the problem arose because a torn flag had to be replaced. “We were putting up a new flag Sunday when it got stuck,” he said.
A representative of Valmont, the company that provided the flag, said, “Tearing of flags is a common problem. We give guarantee from one week to three months.” The Samiti has two flags in stock and two more are being readied.
Commodore (Retired) K V Singh of the Flag Foundation of India said, “Monumentary flags across the world face problems of tearing due to high wind velocity in the upper reaches.”
A single flag costs around Rs 85,000. When it is repaired, the flag company bears the cost. But when it is replaced, the Samiti pays for a new one. “It is the money from the Samiti’s donations. Our accounts are transparent,” said the convenor.
“Once the flag is down, we will take a decision on whether or not to constantly keep it flying. It is a matter of pride so we would like to fly it on a daily basis,” said Kumar.