Home Stories

Independence Day 2023 | Unfurled Stories: Voices Behind The Tricolour

Independence Day 2023 | Delving deep into the streets of Delhi NCR, this story unveils the poignant tales of flag sellers whose daily struggles intertwine with India’s vibrant legacy of freedom.

By Sweekriti Agrawal and Saksham Agrawal
New Update

During Independence Day 2023, in the heart of India, amidst the vibrant hues of the tricolour lie tales of aspiration, endurance, and unfulfilled dreams. As the country celebrates its legacy of freedom, the flag sellers in Delhi NCR find themselves bound by invisible chains of social disparity. These flag sellers reveal stories beyond the fluttering fabric of the tricolour. 

Also Read: The dark tales of India’s missing girls

Through candid conversations with Kanak, Shivanya, Raju, Salim, Sewaram and many others, we explore a world where the emblem of freedom becomes a poignant symbol of their daily struggles.

Independence Day 2023: Where Children Sell Tricolour For A Living

Independence Day 2023 | Kanak and Shivanya

Independence Day 2023 | Kanak and Shivanya sell flags for a living | Photo courtesy: The Probe

On the streets of Greater Noida West, we came across two young girls, Kanak and Shivanya. They live in a temporary tent close to the main road. The girls don’t attend school. They spend nearly ten hours every day selling national flags to passersby.

Kanak, aged ten and Shivanya, just eight, represent the innocence and resilience of countless children across the city. When asked about schooling, Kanak states, “Yes. I used to go earlier, but now I don’t”. When we probed further, Kanak said, “The committee member asked us not to”. She elaborates, referring to those from the authority who threaten to demolish their makeshift homes. Meanwhile, Shivanya says she doesn’t go to school because she doesn’t have an Aadhaar card.

Also Read: Independence Day: How free is India at 75? | The Probe Podumentary

The hustle and hardships of their daily routine are apparent. Kanak reveals the modest sales for the day, “Only one person came and purchased a small flag for 20 rupees.” But what happens when they’re not selling flags? Kanak states, “We sit under the sun the whole day selling pots. We sit on the roads. We are from low income families. What else can we do?”

We visited Kanak and Shivanya’s makeshift tent to speak to her local guardians. We met with her family and asked her aunt Reena why the girls weren’t attending school. Reena speaks of the abysmal lack of facilities that deter the children from attending school. “There is no water, no toilets. How can the children go to school without having a bath?”.

Independence Day 2023: The Economics Of The Tricolour

As the nation commemorates its 77th Independence Day, marking 76 years of freedom, we uncovered poignant tales of families relying on flag sales to make ends meet. Not far from Kanak’s and Shivanya’s makeshift tent, we encountered another family — a father passing the tricolour to his young child.

Independence Day 2023 | Raju and his child

Flag seller Raju hands over the tricolour to his child | Photo courtesy: The Probe

Raju, a diligent flag vendor, articulates the challenges they face with a sombre undertone, “Last year, the sale was good, but this year the flags are not getting sold. I have only earned 100-200 rupees in the last two days. We are barely managing our daily expenses. We spend the entire day sitting here by the roadside.” 

The family’s day begins early, with Raju setting up his makeshift stall by 8 a.m., only to wrap up in the evening around 6-7 p.m. Despite the national significance of the tricolour, its economic value for vendors like Raju remains minimal. Speaking about his sales, he says, “I have sold three flags since this morning.” Delving into the margins, Raju shares, “We buy these flags from Delhi. We make around 20-30 rupees per flag. We have to buy the wooden flagpoles, too, separately.”

Amidst the hustle and challenges, a ray of hope shines bright in Raju’s eyes when he speaks of his child, “Meher,” he says with a hint of pride. “I want my child to be educated. Let’s see what destiny awaits my child.”

Chasing Dreams from the Desert to the Capital: The Tale of Salim and Sohil

The vibrant streets of Delhi NCR, adorned with tricolours, are not just a testament to India’s patriotic fervour but also resonate with tales of endless determination and hope. One such story is of Salim and Sohil, a father-son duo who have journeyed from the sandy terrains of Rajasthan, seeking better prospects through flag sales.

Independence Day 2023 | Flag sellers Salim and Sohil

Independence Day 2023 | Salim and his son Sohil travelled from Rajasthan to Delhi NCR to sell flags | Photo courtesy: The Probe 

“We came here from Rajasthan. It’s been three to four days,” reveals Salim, his voice hinting at a mix of determination and trepidation. Their mission was clear – “We will sell the flags and head back to our village,” he adds. Despite their high hopes and the significance of the tricolour in the hearts of many, the day unfolded differently for them. Salim, with a sombre expression, discloses, “Not a single flag sold. We have been sitting idle.”

Independence Day 2023: The Meaning Of True Freedom

What does freedom signify to some of those who sell national flags for a living? Sumer Singh, a flag seller since 1997 during both Independence Day and Republic Day, equates freedom with an escape from unemployment. For Sheela, true liberation would come when she gains freedom from the shackles of inflation.

“When we sell more flags, it feels good to know people are excited about Independence Day. Last year, every house had a flag. Our sales were also good... in fact, very good. But it is not like that this year,” Sumer laments.

To Sumer, freedom isn’t just about political rights or celebrating a national holiday. It’s deeply personal. “Freedom is when the children of low income families are happy... When they find employment or get a place in a shop or market to set up their small business,” he states poignantly.

For Sheela, the word ‘freedom’ paints a picture of relief from the relentless economic pressures of daily life. She speaks of the burden that inflation casts upon her life. “Inflation is killing us. Gas cylinders are expensive; essential commodities have been steadily increasing in price. Poor people like us sit on the roads, but everything is becoming expensive. We need freedom from inflation. That’s the only freedom we genuinely need", she asserts.

Independence Day 2023: Senior citizens sell flags

Older people selling national flags in delhi NCR | Photo courtesy: The Probe

The Spirit Of The Nation Captured By Its Flag Bearers

As we navigated from one street to another, the sight of countless individuals, irrespective of their age, selling national flags painted a touching tableau of hope, sacrifice, and ambition. At one corner, the lively chatter of Bankhu, Sona, and Mukhi captured our attention. Their youthful exuberance, juxtaposed against their street-side business, spoke volumes.

Independence Day 2023 | Children selling flags

Independence Day 2023 | Children selling flags for a living | Photo courtesy: The Probe

When inquired about their inventory, Bankhu, with a proud glint in her eyes, listed, “I have scarfs, caps, flags, these big flags, stickers, and bracelets.” The young girl, who used to study in a government school, has now temporarily swapped textbooks for tricolours. Her sister, Mukhi, offered a different tale. “I don’t go to school because my sister teaches me. I’m young.”

Underneath The Tricolours: Stories Of Hope, Aspiration, And Sacrifice

Not far from the children was Sevaram. Accompanied by his wife, he had been selling the national flag for several days. Though he harbours aspirations like any parent, wishing to educate his 3-year-old daughter, Saloni, his vision was grander and more heart-touching.

“I wish that every house in our country displays the tricolour. Tricolours should be everywhere throughout the country,” Sevaram proclaimed. His voice echoing his deep-rooted patriotism.

Also Read: LGBTQIA+ Community Finds Beacon of Hope in Indian Courts

The celebrations may be loud, and the jubilations many, but the silent tales of people like Bankhu, Mukhi, and Sevaram embody the nation’s spirit. Their stories, dreams, and hopes remind us that the essence of national pride often lies in the simplest of aspirations and the deepest of sacrifices.

As the colours of the tricolour unfurl in homes and institutions across the nation, the tales of these citizens and countless others resonate with a different hue of sacrifice and survival. Their stories remind us that the essence of freedom is intricately woven with the threads of social responsibility and empathy. As we celebrate our national milestones, for these proud Indians, every sale is not just a transaction but a testament to their indomitable spirit and hopes for a better tomorrow.

To ACCESS and SUPPORT our exclusive stories and impactful public interest journalism, subscribe to our YouTube channel. Click on THE PROBE'S LOGO below to subscribe.