It was supposed to be a symbol of national pride: the tallest flag in India posted provocatively close to the border with arch-rival Pakistan – so close that media reports boasted it could be seen from as far away as Lahore.
But since the tricolour was hoisted to its 110-metre (360ft) position earlier this month, there has proved to be a major hitch: unexpectedly strong gusts have torn the flag so badly it has needed to be replaced four times already.
Now the trust responsible for managing the site is questioning whether the £433,000 landmark is too high a price to pay for patriotism.
The 864 sq metre flag, posted at the Wagah border crossing near Amritsar in Punjab, was unveiled in early March. It complemented the town’s existing 51-metre high flag, in a public park, which has reportedly needed replacing 14 times.
“Both these flags have set new standards in cost and the patriotism cost is just too high here,” Suresh Mahajan, chairman of the Amritsar Improvement Trust, told the Hindustan Times.
He said around £1,858 had been spent on replacing both flags so far – an expense he feared the trust would not be able to bear indefinitely. “People behind installing the flags should have examined the flag material as it is failing to withstand the wind flow,” Mahajan said.
He said the former Punjab minister Anil Joshi, who conceived and unveiled the project, had claimed the flag would have a dedicated maintenance crew – but no such team was ever established.
“[India’s] national flag is our pride and I request to the government to call an inquiry over the issue and those responsible should be punished,” Mahajan said.
While India uses the soft power of flags in an attempt to awe and intimidate its nuclear-armed neighbour, Pakistan has been accused of using less traditional methods. Last October a “spy pigeon” was detained by Indian troops near the heavily militarized border in Kashmir during an upsurge in tension.