NorthEast India’s Righteous Demand for a Second Time-Zone

Time is of the essence. This phrase is used when something needs to be done promptly. Ironically, this perfectly fits my today’s article.

India first established time-zones in 1884, owing to the British. During the 1884 International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C. India registered its two official time zones, Bombay Time and Calcutta Time. Madras Time, an unofficial time was used as well as the Railway Time.

Following the celebrations of India attaining its independence from the British Raj, lots of important decisions were made. One such decision was for India to follow a single time-zone, Indian Standard Time (+05:30:00 GMT), to manifest a unified front against the world. With Pakistan separating to form its own country, this time zone decision was more important than ever.

India is the 7th largest country in the world, with a width that runs approximately 2,933kms. On a usual day, such as today, the sun rises in the eastern Guwathi at 04:42 am IST and at 06:05 am on the western Ahmedabad. The difference is 1 hour and 23 minutes. While it may not seem like much of an issue to most of India, the north-eastern states, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands face a huge impact.

Here’s a table of the approximated sunrise and sunset times across different cities of India on 18th July 2020.

Guwathi, Assam04:4218:17
Port Blair, Andaman05:0417:47
Bhubaneshwar, Odisha05:1718:29
Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh05:4418:43
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh05:4519:08
Solan, Himachal Pradesh05:3019:25
Bangalore, Karnataka06:0218:50
Ahmedabad, Gujarat06:0519:27
Source: Google Search

The affected North-Eastern states and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands detect sunrise very early and are forced to follow the usual 9 to 5 or 10 to 4 work hours. The work hours start almost 5-6 hours after the sunrise when the sun is at its peak and the days are much hotter. Winter months, bring along another issue with the sun setting much earlier, almost by 16:00 – 17:00 in the evenings. Their nights are much longer and it’s already dark by the time schools and offices shut. The tea plantations, local to North-Eastern India is most affected, farmers struggle to work through the heat and dark.

More so than the obvious issues faced by a portion of Indians, is the social, economic, ecological, and financial repercussions. With the loss of several day-light hours before the office and school timings, the electricity usage is higher in these areas. 2.7 billion units of electricity each year can be saved by advancing IST by ½ hour and establishing another time zone. With a time zone 1 hour ahead of IST, India alone could save 5.4 billion units of electricity and so much more money, manpower, and peace.

For years, politicians from the North-East have filed petitions to set 2 official time zones of India to benefit a whole set of population. Each time just to be faced with the same rejection, blaming the resources and expenditure of resetting clocks and syncing India as a whole.

Assam’s then-Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, in 2014, frustrated with India’s adamance, decided for Assam to follow its unofficial time-zone, the ChaiBagaan/Bagaan Time. The Bagan time is 1hour ahead of IST.

India doesn’t make use of Daylight Savings either. Daylight Savings is the practice of advancing clocks during warmer months (with longer days) and retreating clocks during colder months (with shorter days). DST is another cheaper alternative to setting a 2nd official time zone in India but the central government is unswerving of change. The country has only used it a couple of times during war with China (1962), and twice with Pakistan (1962 and 1971).

Although it was set post-independence, as a symbol of unity, many leaders including B.R. Ambedkar was against the one time zone policy. They recognized the inconvenience and ecological impacts it would have on the people and the climate.

Time is of the essence, and so is money and manpower. It is important to let go of a symbol of unity and practice unity and support people of our country with a time-zone that saves lives and billions of units of electricity and consequently, money.

Categories: News