That Tricolour you bought at the traffic signal was probably made in China
It was the year 1962. Abdul Gaffar Ansari, now 64 years old, was then a young boy serving as an assistant to his father, a tailor in Delhi's Sadar Bazar. That year, they received an order that would forever change the course of their simple business. The order? Party flags for the local municipal elections. Receiving both good feedback as well as a tidy profit, they resolved to go into the business of flag-making.
Over 50 years later, however, Ansari's business has never been worse. While Indians contemplate a boycott on Chinese goods in light of the Doklam standoff, Ansari is an unlikely victim of Chinese exports. Because, while the Tricolour is the epitome of patriotism, most of the flags flooding the market today are actually made in China.
Ahead of Independence Day celebrations, even as there is a huge demand for Tricolours across the country, Ansari's business is far from what it used to be. Ansari, who operates out of a small two-room set-up, sells about 15,000-20,000 flags a year. However, this is a significant dip from just a few years ago.
“We used to sell flags in lakhs, but now the number has immensely decreased. Workers are also losing their jobs. We started our preparation two months ago for Independence Day, but now we are not able to sell them anymore,” says Abdul Salam, one of Ansari's workers, pointing towards a huge pile of unsold flags as proof.
“Since the past two years, China is manufacturing Tricolours and exporting them to India,” Ansari explains. “We do use many Chinese products in our country, but they should not be allowed to make national flags because they don’t make it properly,” he says in frustration.
Ansari's frustration isn't just borne out of financial need. Picking up a Chinese-made flag lying around, he points out us a very real problem. “When you closely observe the Chinese version of the flag, you will see four sections rather than three – orange, white, green, and then there is one more white line.”
“Flag making is a time consuming process. It involves cutting, stitching, printing and finally packaging. Depending on the size of the flag, it takes our workers around 3-4 hours to stitch a single flag,” he says, explaining the process of making the flags. “The flags that come from China are simply printed ones, and that too not done properly,” Ansari explains.
Despite his obvious pride, both in the flag as well as in his country, Ansari knows all too well the negative tags being associated with the Muslim community. “Being a Muslim, I also feel sad when we are being stereotyped and given tags like “terrorist” and “anti-national”. We are as patriotic as any other person in India irrespective of any caste or creed. It is a propaganda created by some political parties and nothing else,” says Ansari, holding the Tricolour proudly.