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Monday, February 24, 2020

‘No jhanda, only danda’: why Guwahati was disappointed on Independence Day

On Independence Day, the country’s third highest Tricolour was meant to unfurl on Guwahati’s Sarania hilltop, where city attraction Gandhi Mandap is located. However, only the pole stands, bereft of the flag.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati | Updated: August 15, 2018 7:02:16 pm
The installation of the 300-feet-high monumental flagpole with flag size of 120′ X 80’ is part of the “Refurbishment of Gandhi Mandap” project by the government’s Guwahati Smart City Mission.

As a 310-feet-tall pole was installed atop Guwahati’s Sarania Hill — which houses local tourist attraction, Gandhi Mandap — there was a flurry of excitement amongst local residents in the run-up to Independence Day.

However, the morning was a disappointment for many who turned up to witness the hoisting of one of the country’s “tallest national flags.” Reportedly 200 people showed up — many local residents of the area as well as children and students from nearby colleges and hostels — to find only a bare pole, with no flag. However, despite the palpable disappointment, celebrations continued with a small flag hoisting ceremony on the periphery.

The installation of the 300-feet-high monumental flagpole with flag size of 120′ X 80’ is part of the “Refurbishment of Gandhi Mandap” project by the government’s Guwahati Smart City Mission. “Today was supposed to be a trial run — but we were asked to defer it because a trial run does not suit the sanctity of Independence Day,” said a highly-placed official from the Smart City Mission. “Taking it up and bringing it down does not look good. It would confuse people more. That is why we have been asked to do it another day,” he added.

However, other authorities who spoke to the, claimed there were other reasons for the delay. “The pole was made in Mumbai by Bajaj Electricals. It only came to Guwahati ten days back. To lift it up the hill, we had to bring a crane from Digboi. These things take time. The crane was also stuck because of the floods,” said the official, who did not wish to be named.

He added, “Sure, August 15th was our target but just because we did not make the deadline doesn’t mean the project is cancelled. This can be done on October 2 as well.”

The refurbishment scheme of the Gandhi Mandap — a museum constructed in memory of Mahatma Gandhi — also includes a makeover of the landscape that surrounds it, and other “infrastructure Improvement work.” “The National flag idea was merged with the Gandhi Mandap plan only later,” said the official, who said the work order for the former was issued in March 2018. For the flag alone, the government has spent approximately 3.92 crore.

The country’s highest flagpole is located at the Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab — it was built at a cost of Rs 3.50 crore and inaugurated in 2017. For the Assam flag, the Smart City Mission has collaborated with the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, PMG, Tata Engineering Service and Bajaj Electricals. The execution is being done by the government’s Department of Industry and Commerce.

While many local residents took to social media to point out the lapse (“no jhanda, only danda” wrote one Facebook user while sharing the photo), the authorities said that when it does go up, it will change the city skyline forever. “The hill can be seen from most parts of the city — the location is unparalleled,” said an official.
However, no new date has been announced for the inauguration. “Maybe it will now be better to do it when the entire Gandhi Mandap refurbishment plan is complete — perhaps about six months later,” he said.

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