Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention on recognising Pongal festival as a compulsory holiday even as the Centre clarified that these are decided by the employees welfare committees in state capitals and it has ‘nothing’ to do with it.
As the issue became a political controversy in the state with ruling AIADMK and DMK too raising it, Panneerselvam, in a letter to Modi, urged him to include the harvest festival under the list of mandatory holidays for all central government administrative offices in the state.
He said the central government calendar showed Pongal, which falls on January 14, as a restricted holiday, finding place only in the list of 12 optional holidays.
“As a result, Pongal is not a compulsory holiday for central government offices in Tamil Nadu,” Pannerselvam said.
The Chief Minister took up the issue a day after ruling AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala said conversion of the holiday for Pongal as a restricted one had come as a “big shock” and sought a review of the decision.
Criticising the change, DMK had announced a protest for tomorrow.
A central government release said the Centre had ‘nothing’ do with deciding a compulsory holiday for Pongal.
Normally, 17 compulsory holidays were observed in all central government offices located outside Delhi every year with three of them finalised from another list of 12 restricted holidays including Holi, Pongal and Vishu/Vaisakhi.
These holidays are decided by the Central Government Employees Welfare Coordination Committee in the state capitals, if necessary, in consultation with such committees at other places in the state, it said.
Earlier, state BJP President Tamilisai Sounderrajan alleged efforts were being made to made paint its government at the Centre as “anti-Tamil” by digging out an old order.
The list of holidays had been released in June (last year) and some parties “are trying to paint the Centre as working against Tamils by creating an illusion that the list was suddenly altered yesterday,” she said in a statement.
Terming it (restricted holiday) “an apparent diminution in the importance accorded to Pongal for the past several years,” Panneerselvam said it had created ‘disquiet’ and an impression that an important festival had been “ignored” by the Centre.
He said Pongal was celebrated with great zest and enthusiasm by all sections of people transcending religions.
“Therefore to meet the legitimate aspirations of the people of Tamil Nadu, I request that Pongal be included in the list of compulsory holidays to be observed by all Central Government Administrative offices in Tamil Nadu,” he said.
He also suggested that an additional day for Pongal be included in the list of optional holidays, saying it would ensure Thiruvalluvar Day, on January 15, could also be declared as a holiday for Central employees so that they could fully participate in the festivities.