Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu has a re-opened a long-running debate, arguing that a separate time zone for the Northeast would save working daylight time and electricity.
When Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday called for the Northeast to have a separate time zone, he joined a long line of people advocating the same ever since Indian Standard Time (IST) was created after Independence.
“A separate time zone for the Northeast would save working daylight time and save electricity,” Khandu was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying. “We get up as early as 4 am. Several daylight hours are wasted as government offices open only at 10 am and close at 4 pm."
The sun rises and sets much earlier in the North East as compared to the rest of India, which means people in the region have to turn on the lights much earlier.
Khandu’s support for the demand comes days after the Gauhati High Court rejected a public interest litigation seeking a separate time zone for the northeast.
The case for separate time zones:
Before Independence, the British used to follow three time zones—a Bombay time zone, a Calcutta time zone and a “Tea Garden Time” or baagaan (garden) time - one hour ahead of IST - observed by the tea plantation workers in Assam so as to capitalise on daylight in order to increase productivity. Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had proposed that all Northeast states switch to this time zone.
In an article on his website, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor argued for separate time zones to avoid negative consequences in lifestyle habits and energy consumption. He raised the argument that the Northeast produces few cricketers as they have fewer daylight hours to practice.
The case against separate time zones
Post independence, the IST caters to a country that is approximately 3000-km from end to end. The United States, with an approximate expanse covering 4300-km from end-to-end, has four separate time zones.
Arguments against separate time zones suggest the benefits of daylight savings will not be substantial and there will be lack of coordination between different parts of the densely populated country and obstacles in running the railways.
In the late 1980s, a team of researchers proposed separating the country into two or three time zones to conserve energy, but its recommendations were not adopted.
In 2001, the government established a four–member committee under the Ministry of Science and Technology to examine the need for multiple time zones and daylight saving.The Minister for Science and Technology at the time, Kapil Sibal, suggested sticking to the IST, stating that "the prime meridian was chosen with reference to a central station, and that the expanse of the Indian State was not large.”
A planning commission report in 2006, too, suggested different time zones in India to improve efficiency.
Nonetheless, tea gardens in Assam still follow the baagaan time in order to increase productivity.