Separate time zone for N-E welcome

Separate time zone for N-E welcome

The long-pending demand for a separate time zone for the Northeastern part of the country has again come into focus with the Central government announcing that it was ‘pro-actively’ considering the matter. The announcement was made in the Lok Sabha by Science and Technology Minister Y S Chowdary. The minister also said that it is an important and sensitive matter. The argument that it is sensitive has been used in the past to reject the idea. Though a committee set up by the government had once recognised the need for two time zones in the country, it recommended the retention of the single Indian Standard time (IST). Courts have also refused to entertain the matter. But the demand has persisted and the state governments of the region, legislators, experts and citizens have kept making the demand. Some years ago, then Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had even said that Assam would unilaterally follow the Chaibagan time, a time scheme followed by tea estates which is one hour ahead of the IST, if the Central government did not accept the demand for a separate time zone.

The need for a separate time zone in the Northeast has been self evident. There is a two-hour gap in actual time between the eastern and western extremities of the country. The sun rises at 4 am in Arunachal Pradesh but two hours later in Gujarat. The sun also sets two hours earlier in the East. The working of all government offices and educational institutions, business and other activities have to be tailored to this time scheme. The inconvenience and practical difficulties are immense. There is a lot of financial wastage also. According to a study, 2.7 billion units of electricity can be saved in a year if the IST is advanced by half an hour in the Northeast. It has also been argued that productivity will increase and development will get a boost in the region if it has a different time scheme. There are also other difficulties like health problems created by the mismatch between the biological and the official clocks.

The argument that the unity and integrity of the country will be affected if there is a separate time zone in the Northeast, which has many insurgencies, is not tenable. Many countries like the US and Russia have more than one time zone. Even Bangladesh adopted a daylight saving time in 2009. India actually had two time zones in pre-independence days. The government’s latest exercise should not go the way of earlier ones.
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