Work for Gandhi on a holiday : BJP

| 24 September 2002 22:30 IST

A unique controversy over Gandhi Jayanti holiday has erupted in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Goa, forcing government employees to attend office on a public holiday.

Retreating on its previous stand, the government has withdrawn its earlier circular that had cancelled 2 October from its holiday list. But the new circular, which restores it as a holiday, follows yet another circular, to attend the offices for two hours.

Terming it as ‘clean offices’ day, chief secretary Baleshwar Rai has said it is mandatory for all the employees to attend the office from 10 am to 12 noon and clean up the workplace, following principles of Mahatma Gandhi.

The whole controversy had erupted in November last year when chief minister Manohar Parrikar suddenly cancelled Gandhi Jayanti and Goa Statehood Day (30 May) as holidays, in order to reduce the number of holidays.

Parrikar, a staunch RSS swayamsevak, had however dismissed the allegation that the action reflects the Sangh Parivar’s permanent hatred towards Bapuji. “Gandhi believed in work and I want to begin the work culture on his birthday”, he had said.

However, as he realised that Gandhi Jayanti is a national holiday under the Negotiable Instruments Act, he had to withdraw the unilateral circular and restore the public holiday.

However, the adamant chief minister has now gone ahead by issuing yet another notification, which instructs all the employees to attend the office for two hours and clean up the office premises.

“We appreciate the noble and creative idea of cleanliness, but why to choose the Gandhi Jayanti”, asks AITUC leader Christopher Fonseca, who leads several government employee unions. It is totally illegal to force anybody to attend the office on a holiday, he adds.

Shantaram Naik, the Congress leader, has in fact condemned the government action to make it mandatory. “At the most, it could be voluntary”, he says. Earlier, Naik had appealed to the workers to go on a mass casual leave, assuring them to pay one-day salary once the Congress comes to power.

The government employees here have however decided to demand compensation for two hours, if they attend the office on 2 October. “They cannot force us, but we can definitely demand pay for extra work on a holiday”, states Ajit Talaulikar, president of the government employees association.

He also dubs it purely as a political controversy, with no politician of any party having any regard for the Mahatma. “Gandhiji practiced what he preached, unlike these hypocrite politicians”, he alleges, stating that the employees are simply dragged into a political controversy.

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