British MPs to debate making Deepavali a public holiday

British MPs are set to hold a debate in Parliament later this month on whether Hindu and Muslim religious occasions such as Deepavali and Id should be made into public holidays, following public calls for change, including through petitions submitted to Parliament. Over 45,000 people have signed a petition on Parliament’s e-petition website, calling for Id-ul-Fitr and Id ul-Adha to be made public holidays, while over 11,000 have signed a petition to make Deepavali and Dussera public holidays. The petitions noted that despite both religions accounting for sizeable sections of the British community (the 2011 census said there were 2.7 million Muslims, or 4.8% of the U.K. population, while there are 8,17,000 Hindus or 1.5%) there are no public holidays that recognised their religions. Considerable costs The government rejected both petitions earlier this year, pointing to the “considerable” costs that would be involved. “The cost of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee holiday was around £1.2 billion,” said the government in statements to both petitions. However, Parliament’s petitions committee, which scrutinises petitions brought forward on the public website and selects some for debate, has chosen to hold a debate in Westminster Hall, despite the signatories not reaching the 1,00,000 threshold, which would automatically require the holding of a debate on the issue . Martyn Day, a Scottish National MP and member of the Petitions Committee who will open the debate, said he was in the process of gathering data, and evidence on the arguments to and against changes. “Even in this country, for example, England has eight public holidays, Scotland, nine and Northern Ireland 10 so there is no consistency.” In addition, the message that reflecting different communities occasions via public holidays could have bolstering a strong multicultural society also had to be considered, he said.

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