The Sarbananda Sonowal government’s cabinet on Tuesday approved the holiday list for Assam for the calendar year 2020. It comprises of 35 holidays and 31 restricted holidays that over 5 lakh Assam government employees are going to enjoy in the next year. Taking into account the second and fourth Saturdays and Sundays when State government offices remain closed, these government employees will enjoy as many as 113 holidays during 2020. In addition to these confirmed holidays, the State government employees will also be able to avail two days holiday which the General Administration Department (GAD) can declare, as also one day holiday declared by the Deputy Commissioners in a year.
This means that the 5 lakh plus Assam government employees will not require to work for almost 33 per cent of the days in the new calendar year. Moreover, each government employee is also eligible to avail another at least a month’s time as earned leave and casual leave. Given this above scenario, the question that every other common citizen whose lives are dependent on the State government can ask — can a State government, particularly in an economically backward State like Assam, afford to have so many holidays? This culture of holidays is in no way going to help the economic development of Assam. Neither is it going to help the citizens achieve their various goals and meet their grievances. There is no second opinion on the fact only a State or a community that works, and actually works hard, can dream of achieving its goals. The question now arises — what are the goals that Assam and the people of the State should have? The answer is simple — the overall productivity of Assam should increase; the per capita income of the people of the State should go up; government files should move fast so that the common people do not suffer from delays that could involve issues related to life and death; and so on. It is a fact that Assam is a State which has a diverse ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic mix in comparison to most other States of the country. The country as a whole too has a large diversity of language, culture, religion and ethnicity. But then, why is the total number of holidays for Central government only limited to 20 or 21 in a given calendar year?
Why is the number of holidays in a neighbouring State like Meghalaya, or for that matter Tripura, much less than that of Assam? A cursory glance at the number of public holidays in countries that have been marching ahead of India reveals that the lesser the number of public holidays, more are chances of reaching higher on the economic development front. The Philippines, for instance, has only 18 public holidays in a year. China and Hong Kong has 17 days each. In Thailand it is 16, while Vietnam and Malaysia have 15 holidays each. Indonesia does even better with 14 public holidays, while Taiwan and South Korea have 13 public holidays each. Singapore, another country which has already achieved developed nation status, has only 11 public holidays, while Australia and New Zealand have 10 public holidays each. While the UAE has only 11 public holidays, Finland and Russia have 10 public holidays each. More holidays definitely make people lazy.
Moreover, the basic fact is that most people do not observe anything on the day on which a particular holiday is meant for. Holidays have definitely affected the mindset of the younger generation in Assam, who, while going out to work or study in other States, often find it difficult to adjust with the situation where there are lesser holidays. Assam seriously requires a debate on the increasing number of holidays, while the younger generation, which wants to compete with their counterparts across the globe, should start demanding reduction of holidays. The ‘lahe-lahe’ syndrome is already ingrained in the Assamese mind. With increasing holidays, Assam is fast becoming a ‘Bandha Pradesh’ or Holiday State.