Flag hoisting every day not a tall order for them

These elderly men risk their lives to keep the largest National Flag in the country fluttering atop Vidhana Soudha and take pride in it
Group D employee Shankar carries the Tricolour after bringing it down in Vidhana Soudha on Monday while protocol officer Revanna Sidappa looks on | Nagaraja Gadekal
Group D employee Shankar carries the Tricolour after bringing it down in Vidhana Soudha on Monday while protocol officer Revanna Sidappa looks on | Nagaraja Gadekal

BENGALURU: Have you ever wondered who puts up the gigantic National Flag atop Vidhana Soudha and how? Meet Anthony Das. This 51-year-old man hoists the flag every day, an act that fetches him only `50 per day. He has been doing so for 21 years now. The amount was `20 per day till 2016.

On reaching Soudha, he takes the lift or sometimes walks to the third floor, which is the terrace of the power house. From there he takes 18 steps to reach the base of the 20-foot flag pole. Come rain or the wind, the job has to be done again in the evening when Anthony or another worker has to bring down the flag.  The 8 feet by 12 feet flag is the biggest National Flag hoisted in the country. Flags of the same size are hoisted in New Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.

Anthony lives in a humble quarter meant for Group D employees near the Chief Minister’s residence. He is among the three Group D employees of the Department of Personnel and Administrative Services who are ‘stable’ to perform this task. “There are nine employees but six of them are unstable to climb such a height. One should be strong to withstand heavy wind and rain at such a height. It is tough to maintain balance while holding the flag,” he said.

Anthony got this job on compensatory grounds after his father Rajappa died. “For my father, this job was no less than worship. He always spoke about it with pride. He used to get 50 paise per day. After I got this job, my remuneration was `2 per day. I too take pride in my work,” he said.
59-year-old Nagaraj did the job for the last 24 years. “When one climbs that height, there will be giddiness. Now I am too old for this job,” he said.

Another person who did not wish to reveal his identity said, “When a politician hoists a flag, it is done with pomp. Since they are VIPs, all security arrangements are in place. But for the last six decades, Group D employees have been hoisting the tricolour every day. Nobody cares about our security,” he said.
Anthony added that till March, the staircase from the terrace till the flag was made of iron. “It was so risky that one could slip and fall. Now, our supervisor Revanna Siddappa and others arranged for a metal staircase. I finally feel a bit safe.” On Monday, Siddappa was helping another employee Shankar put up the flag.

They feel neglected
The workers say they feel neglected when compared to those who perform similar duties at Raj Bhavan, which is 500m from Soudha. Anthony said, “Four to five policemen do the same work which is done by only one of us. And their’s is only a two by three feet flag on a 10-foot pole.” The workers have been requesting the state government to increase their daily remuneration to D100. “It was 50 paise till 1996 after which it was increased to D2.

In 2010, it was increased to D15,” a worker said. Also, the workers are paid only once in three months. “We have also been asking for jerkins which will be useful during rainy days. Earlier they used to give raincoats which has been stopped. Jerkins are comfortable as raincoats make it difficult to climb up,” he added.  Chief Secretary Subhash Chandra Khuntia assured help to the workers and said, “Ask them to meet me or the DPAR Secretary.”

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