NY Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar’s Bill To Make Diwali School Holiday Passes
Photo : Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar with supporters of the bill.
By ARUL LOUIS
NEW YORK, NY (IANS) – The New York State legislature has passed a Bill to make Diwali a school holiday in the city in a final scramble before it adjourned.
Both the Senate and the Assembly voted for the Bill before they ended their session early June 10 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 failed.
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, the New York City Council 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, who had introduced a Bill to make Diwali a federal holiday, said, “The New York State Legislature’s approval of these two measures is 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.”
In an earlier acknowledgment 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.