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Lawmakers Okay Diwali School Holiday in New York City


US lawmaker Grace Meng to keep pushing her bill to create federal holidays for Lunar New Year and Diwali

New York State legislature has passed a Bill to make Diwali a school holiday in New York City in a final scramble before it adjourned. Both the Senate and the Assembly voted for the Bill before they ended their sessions early Saturday morning and it now goes to Governor Kathy Hochul for her expected signature to make it law.

Introducing the bill, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said, “It is long past time to honor” the “vibrant cultural heritage” of the South Asian, Indo-Caribbean, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist communities by making Diwali a school holiday.

An estimated 200,000 students from these communities will be able to celebrate the festival of lights in their own way, free of school.

“As the first Hindu-American and South Asian-American woman elected to the state office in New York, I take special pride in advocating for new American communities, including those that celebrate Diwali,” Rajkumar said.

Two earlier attempts to pass the legislation in 2021 and 2022 did not succeed.

The Bill overcame a last-minute hurdle after the Bill’s sponsors, Rajkumar and State Senator Joseph Adabo, dropped a proposal to have Diwali replace the Brooklyn-Queens Day holiday and leave it to the discretion of the city.

Diwali may instead replace an obscure holiday, Anniversary Day, to maintain the required 180 days of class required every year.

In February, New York City Council had passed a resolution proposed by Councilwoman Linda Lee to make Diwali a school holiday, but it needed state-level approval.

New York Mayor Eric Adams has supported the legislation, unlike his predecessors, as has Schools Chancellor David Banks.

The New York Legislature also passed a Bill to make the Lunar New Year a state-wide school holiday.

Grace Meng, a member of the US House of Representatives, called State Legislature’s approval of these two measures as “a wonderful reminder and celebration of the great diversity that exists in our state, and underscores how this diversity should be reflected in the holidays observed by our residents.”

Meng, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, has herself introduced a bill in the US Congress “to create federal holidays for Lunar New Year and Diwali so their importance will be recognized across our country.”

“As we commemorate this moment, I will continue shepherding my bills through Congress that seek to ensure our federal holidays are days that are important to our communities of color,” she stated. “I am excited over the momentum and support that we continue to see for these two celebrations.”

In an earlier acknowledgement of the significance of Diwali, New York City suspended in 2006 a parking regulation for Diwali, putting it on par with other religious holidays.

The City Council voted to override a veto by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg to add the festival of lights to the list.

Suspension of the regulation against parking on a certain side of the road on certain days is to ensure that those celebrating the holiday do not have to move their vehicles amid the festivities.

Source: The American Bazaar

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