Too much of a good thing

  • There is a need to rethink the way various government holidays, including Republic Day, are celebrated
- Shyam K.C.
Too much of a good thing

May 29, 2014-

The country observed its Republic Day on Thursday. But except for a formal stiff neck Army parade attended by the country’s dignitaries at much-abused Tundikhel, the day passed like any other public holiday. There were no attractive functions or events to remind the people what a Republic Day really means to them and how this day was made possible. In fact, similar days were also observed on Falgun 7 (Prajatantra Diwas) and on Baisakh 11 (Loktantra Diwas). These three days have been allotted to celebrate almost the same kind of occasion. The post-2006 system did away with Unity Day, or Prithivi Jayanti, as the new system found the unification of Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah through violent means quite insignificant. The use of violence by the Maoists was a different matter and in the eyes of some, quite justified. The Army parade and public expenses involved in such brief celebrations hardly justifies the loss the country entails on these very occasions.

Mostly on leave

The need to make these occasions meaningful cannot be over emphasised. The declaration of different types of national holidays by the government must be meaningful to the common people and entail as little a burden as possible on the public exchequer. According to the 2071 BS (2014-2015) calendar, the total number of government holidays is 78. This means that a government employee enjoys over a two-and-a-half month long holiday plus an annual leave and also casual and sick leave. The amount of public money that goes into maintaining such practices cannot be justified in the 21st century unless the productivity of government employees is high and unless they are able to meet public expectations. There must be a rethink on the large number of national holidays. Many such holidays are religious in nature and cannot be justified in a country that professes to be secular. Serious rethinking needs to be done in this direction and on the secular government’s policy of appeasement towards different religions. Too many holidays tend to slacken the government’s efficiency and thereby, the governance of the country. However, this may perhaps happen in the future when a duly elected government takes office; it might not be possible for a transitional government as it has to appease all segments of the society.

This is perhaps the reason we observe three similar occasions—two democracy days and one Republic Day—as holidays. There may be enough arguments to bring the figure down to two. Democracy Day is observed on Falgun 7 each year to mark the end of 104 years of Rana oligarchy. The other Democracy Day in Baisakh marks the end of king Gyanendra’s rule. A prominent leader rued the fact that the Falgun 7 Democracy Day was not observed properly last time and much needed to be done to remind the people of the struggle undertaken by the people to bring democracy to Nepal, which also opened up the country to the outside world. Such occasions, including Republic Day, have to be observed in such a manner that the young of the country—the country’s future—will be able to cherish the huge sacrifices made by the leaders and the people to achieve these lofty goals. The whole country needs to be involved in activities meant to observe these days. It is not enough for a few state and government heads and leaders to attend functions as mere formalities, without caring for how the people take—whether seriously or mockingly—their activities.

Include the young

Students, both from schools and colleges, have to be brought into activities organised on these occasions and designed to entertain them. This can take the shape of sports competitions, debates, essay competitions and/or any other activities, reminding them that these occasions are special to them and the country. Political parties that run the government, which had no qualms about using students including school children in their political rallies in the past, should have no problem spending time and money in undertaking useful activities for the young of the nation, who will ultimately perpetuate the nation’s legacy. Currently, the official celebrations of these national occasions sound hollow and most believe that it is a routine performance by the leaders and officials. Hence, the need to do more to observe these occasions in a fitting manner and in ways through which the young of the country become active participants.

Republic Day yesterday began with the sounding of bugles from atop Dharahara and the firing of canons at the Army ground in southern Tundhikhel. There was commotion all round with the early morning noise but it soon died down and the day was no different from others. Perhaps in the evening and at night, the government buildings were lighted—despite the power outage—to mark the celebrations. But are such expense-oriented activities enough to remember the martyrs and tell the people why the day is important? Our leaders and planners need to do some serious thinking on how these occasions are to be observed so that they become inspirational to the people.

Published: 30-05-2014 08:58

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