"Fishing trawlers are showing contemptuous disregard to the tricolour. We have received reports of torn and tattered national flags flying on the vessels which is illegal. The marine police station officials have been directed to look into it," Kendrapara Superintendent of Police Narasingha Bhol said.
"The credentials of the crew members and owners are being checked to ascertain their citizenship," said nodal officer for coastal security wing Shantanu Kumar Das. He said though there was no prior report of local vessels misusing the tricolour, infiltration from the sea by Bangladeshis off the Balasore coast has been reported.
"An investigation has begun. Our job will be to find out whether the vessels have a valid licence for fishing in the sea. In the event of torn flags flying from mastheads, the department will file complaints with the police," Rabi Narayan Pattnaik, Assistant Director of Marine Fisheries, Paradip, said.
"The department will issue advisory notes to vessel owners on proper use of national flags," he said. Odisha Trawler Operators Association President Sumanta Kumar Biswal, however, said that it was not a case of wilful disrespect to the national flag. "Many of the crew members are not literate and might unaware of rules and guidelines for flying the national tricolor," he said. Disrespect to the national flag can earn a prison sentence of up to three years, a fine or both as per the provisions of Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act, 1971.