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On Gandhi Jayanti, Secularism, Public Holidays and Make In India

Goa has come in the news yesterday for allegedly stealing the Gandhi Jayanti holiday from Goans. As we saw here, the Goan Government had only done away with Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday to Industrial workers, and given an additional compensatory holiday on Ganesh Jayanti, when as it is, most Goan employees take a leave and stay away from work. Although current Goan CM Parsekar said this was either a “mistake” or “mischief”, I think this was a very deliberate step.

Parsekar took over as Goa CM in November 2014. His becoming CM was necessitated by Parrikar, his predecessor, being appointed as Defence Minister of India. This gazette was published in September 2014, 2 months before Parsekar took over, so one can forgive Parsekar for being uninformed on this. And it also make it clear this was Parrikar’s decision. What adds to this hypothesis is Parrikar had proposed an even more controversial idea with respect to holidays in 2002/2003 when he was serving his first term as Chief Minister of Goa.

Back then, Parrikar had tried to convert some public holidays, including Mahashivratri, Good Friday and Feast of Saint Francis Xavier , into “Restricted Holidays”. Earlier these were public holidays. The difference was, earlier they were holidays for everybody, Parrikar wanted them to become targeted. Under the restricted holiday practice, an employee can choose which holidays he wants out of a pool of holidays. And the above holidays were now being added to this pool. The main purpose of this was to increase productivity.

By this, a Hindu who would earlier enjoy a holiday on Good Friday, would now have to choose between Mahashivratri & Good Friday, the rationale being a Hindu doesn’t need a holiday on Good Friday and now he should work on such a day while taking a holiday on Mahashivratri. The same applied for Catholics taking holidays on Good Friday. Hence Parrikar had called it an “administrative reform” which would lead to increased productivity.

Of course there was a big hue and cry, from secular and minority groups, that Parrikar is cancelling Good Friday, he is hurting religious sentiments, RSS agenda is coming forth etc. Finally, bowing to public pressure, the notification had to be withdrawn, and all the above holidays were re-instated.

The above episode bears striking resemblance to the current scenario where Gandhi Jayanti has been knocked off from the holidays list and a day on which most employees abscond from work, has been made a Holiday. The purpose remains the same, to increase productivity by reducing holidays lost. And again the bogey of being anti-Gandhi has been raised and in all probability, the Government will roll back this measure too.

Why does Parrikar repeatedly try such “stunts”? Even though his first attempt failed badly, and eventually became a move in the series of events which led to the fall of his Government? Because Parrikar himself is an Industrialist. And he probably understands the losses Industry has to face due to loss of man days. Just last week Goan Industry was lamenting too many public holidays leading to losses. In this case they were opposing the holiday declared on account of Zilla Parishad elections, but the point remains: We have too many redundant holidays.

This idea of targeted holidays in fact is very similar to the “targeted” Direct Cash Transfer scheme which is being implemented by the Central Government where subsidies are given only to the needy instead of everybody. Indian Holidays too need such reforms. Do we need holidays on birth anniversaries of our leaders? Do all religions need holidays on festivals of other religions? Can our ambitious attempt at “Make In India” survive if we are still stuck in debating how many holidays we get?

The problem is no Government can take up this matter because they will be called Anti-Gandhian (for taking up Gandhiji’s holiday) or Anti-Dalit (for taking up Ambedkar Jayanti holiday) or Anti-X Religion (for taking up X Religion’s holiday). For such discussions we need a lot of maturity from our Politicians across parties, maturity which is missing. And also sense from our media, which loves to hyperventilate on issues. Till such time comes, maybe it is upto us to choose when we want to work. As a self-employed professional, I enjoy the liberty to choose and I make it a point to work on holidays which don’t concern me, because hey, If i work more I earn more. Simple logic which will extend to India too, since if India works for more days, India is bound to earn more money.

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