Dual time zones

The recommendation made by a parliamentary standing  committee on transport, tourism and culture to reschedule flight operations from the North-Eastern states to take advantage of the early sun rise in those parts has revived the debate about the need for dual time zones in the country.  The suggestion goes beyond the changes in logistics and time tables of travel, which would benefit tourism and transport-related sectors in the North-East, and is an implicit recognition of the gains many other sectors can make if there is a separate time zone for the region. The debate on time zones is as old as independence. The many practical advantages of the proposal have been ignored  because of the notion that a single time zone for the entire country would promote national integration. The existence of many secessionist movements in the region has contributed to this. But there is no evidence that the prevalence of different time zones has created divisiveness in any country.

The most persuasive economic argument in favour of a separate time zone is that it will significantly reduce the wastage of power. The two-hour difference in sunset time forces offices to keep the lights on and this results in unnecessary overuse of power. Major savings can be effected in consumption in these times of energy shortage if offices close when the day light is still on. It is also noted that the people of the region undertake their normal daily activities like eating and sleeping two hours earlier than people in the rest of the country. It is argued that the misalignment between the biological and the official clocks creates many inconveniences.

There was a recommendation by another parliamentary committee in 2007 for a separate time zone for the North-East. This was after an expert panel appointed by the government had rejected the idea in 2001. There has been a strong demand in the entire North-East for a separate time zone. It is a common practice with many countries to adopt different time zones depending in the size of the country and the change of seasons. Bangladesh adopted the daylight saving time in 2009 to conserve energy.  It has even been argued that India should have more than two time zones. The proposal for a separate time zone for the North-East may be considered again in view of the benefits which it may give to the region.

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