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315. The Indian Public Holiday System and Good Friday

March 27, 2013

The United States has 8 annual federal holidays and 4 of these are either on a Monday or Friday (Presidents Day, MLK Day, Memorial Day, Labour Day), 1 is on a the fourth Thursday of November (Thanksgiving Day), 3 are date specific (New Year Day on January 1st, Independence Day on July 4th and Christmas on December 25th). If you observed only one of these 8 have a direct religious significance. Neither Good Friday (like in India) nor any other religious festival are holidays which talks volumes of the way Secularism is practiced in the country.

In India most private firms and companies that have 5 day weeks choose 12 to 14 holidays in the year and by default four are non religious (Gandhi Jayanti, Ambedkar Jayanti, Republic Day and Independence Day). The other 8 are usually 4 reserved for minority religions (Christmas, Good Friday, Ramzan and Bakrid), 2 reserved for micro minority religions depending on the state ( a choice betweenGuru Nanak Jayanti, Parsi New Year, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima) and there are four to five major Hindu festivals (Diwali, Holi, Dasera, Krishna Janmastami, Ganesh Chaturthi and ins ome cases Raksha Bandhan). It is great to have all this inclusiveness at the cost of productivity but what are we achieving?

I would rather think it would be wise for India to follow first a five day week across all sectors and a uniform holiday pattern to a large extent where all holidays are either on Monday or Friday so people get three days at a stretch. Those who wish to have holidays on specific days have their leave they can use and this brings me to the issue of Good Friday as a tokenism.

Do we need a Good Friday holiday? How does it help? Practicing Christians who are less than 2% of the population can always tale a day’s leave if they have to. In the US where Catholics alone comprise 25% of the population this is not a holiday. And if Jesus Christ were alive he would have laughed at the idea of a holiday called Good Friday.

To make matters worse organisations plan fun events on the Easter weekend because most often it is assumed a tiny minority may or may not celebrate Good Friday so what’s the harm in having a bash and making the most of the three day weekend. Well, the irony of the ethos we follow in a secular country. On one hand the day is declared a public holiday so Christians can fast easy and pray easy and at the same time the rest of India can party with the multiple options available.

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