Pay flag fee, say J&K shopkeepers; Voluntary, says the government

As part of a nationwide program for Independence Day, shopkeepers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag were asked to pay Rs 20 as a “deposit fee” for the tricolor or step. Later, a senior district official clarified that the flag campaign is purely voluntary.

On Friday, the Chief Education Officer (CEO) of Anantnag issued a circular to schools in the district, asking students and teachers to pay a fee of Rs. The circular was withdrawn after it was widely shared on social media.

The announcement to shopkeepers was made from a loudspeaker-equipped vehicle in the south Kashmir district.

Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Dr Piyush Singla said on Sunday that it happened without his permission and the person responsible – the whistleblower – has been sacked.

Before his clarification, the following message came out through the loudspeaker on Saturday: “By order of the Anantnag district administration, every shopkeeper has been asked to deposit Rs 20 in the office that issues their trade license. It is possible that whoever does not deposit Rs 20 may face action. So to save themselves and complete this formality, they should deposit Rs 20.”

The Centre’s nationwide ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign seeks to encourage people to hoist the national flag on August 15.

In Bijbehara town of south Kashmir district, shopkeepers were asked to deposit money by noon on Monday. The declaration did not specify what action could be taken against those who fail to comply.

Schools in Budgam district were asked to collect Rs.20 from students and staff.

“As directed by Chief Education Officer Budgam, all HOIs (Heads of Institutions) in the region have been asked to collect Rs 20 per head from students and staff of schools to be deposited at the ZEO office within four days. ”, reads the notification issued by the Zonal Education Officer at Chadura, Budgam. “In case of multiple students in the same family, only one student can be charged as per instructions.”

This circular was issued last week.

Kashmir School Education Director Tassaduq Hussain Mir did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.

Reacting to the public announcement and notification, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said “patriotism comes naturally and cannot be forced”.

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“The way the J&K administration is forcing students, shopkeepers and employees to pay for hoisting the national flag is as if Kashmir is an enemy territory to occupy. Patriotism comes naturally and cannot be forced,” Mufti tweeted while sharing a video of the public announcement.

Anantnag District Commissioner Singla said the announcement was made without approval.

Singla told The Indian Express, “(Such) there was no approval from the administration for such a declaration. “This is a purely voluntary campaign. The announcer did it himself.”

He said the announcer has been suspended.

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