We celebrate India’s history and achievements on Independence Day and Republic Day, and on these days every citizen is coloured in patriotism. But these celebrations tend to silence the attention that the armed forces need in order to continue their valiant services towards the country – services that that are the epitome of patriotism in the first place. It is to honour our defence forces, and collect funds for their welfare, that we observe the Armed Forces Flag Day on December 7 of every year. Here is an overview of its history, significance and how you can contribute.
On August 8, 1949, a committee was set up by the defence ministry with the sole intention of providing support to the military personnel – the Army, Navy, and the Air force. The plan was to distribute and sell small flags to citizens in order to collect funds that could help the armed forces and their families, either with the sustenance of their livelihood or with recuperation – a small token of gratitude for the sacrifices they make.
In 1993, the defence minister aggregated three related funds with the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund (AFFDF) – the special fund for the war bereaved, war disabled, and other ESM/serving personal, the Kendriya Sainik Board fund, and the Indian Gorkha Ex-Serviceman’s Welfare fund. Together, these formed the official AFFDF that addresses all services of the defence forces that are in need of support.
The Armed Forces Flag Day addresses and collects funds for three important aspects of defence services – Rehabilitation of battle casualties, Welfare of those in service and their families, and Resettlement and welfare of ex-servicemen and their families.
About 60,000 defence personnel are forced to retire each year around 40 years of age, despite being physically and mentally able to continue service, as the Armed Forces is required to keep its personnel young. These retired servicemen deserve respect for their services in the form of remuneration to support their families. War casualties, too, require proper medical attention so that they and their families can recuperate better.
A notable significance of the national Flag Day is that it encourages citizens to take up the responsibility of supporting the Armed Forces that safeguard them. It is only a collective effort such as this that can bring about any significant change. The national Flag Day is a reminder that the betterment of the country is in the hands of its citizens and that the responsibility isn’t, and shouldn’t be, of the government alone. It is a reminder that we should not only celebrate and honour their sacrifices but also take the chance to alleviate those efforts, and to stand in solidarity with them.
On this day, a two minute silence is observed at 11 AM to honour the martyrs and also those in service who have left their families behind to fight for the country. It is in these two minutes of solidary silence that patriotism tends to brim over as Goosebumps.
In some parts of the country, armed forces arrange carnivals and other programmes to educate the public on the efforts being poured into maintaining national security. To carry forward the intention that the fund was initially set up for, pin flags, token flags, car flags, and stickers are sold in red, navy blue, and light blue, which represent the three defence services. These are sold by and the funds collected by the Kendriya Sainik Board (KSB)
Apart from buying the merchandise, you can make significant contributions directly to KSB. Online payments are accepted, and you can also post cheques in favour of Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, addresses to the secretary of KSB. These contributions are exempted from income tax and you can find more details here.
The Flag Day of 2015 saw President Pranab Mukherjee and PM Narendra Modi urging the public to make generous and voluntary contributions to the cause. Here’s hoping that today will see more such significant contributions so we can say that it was indeed a happy Armed Forces Flag Day!