Assam, known as the “land of laggards” or “lahe lahe” (slowly, slowly), may now be a couple of hours ahead of the rest of India. On March 30, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma made a statement in the assembly about the Assam-Meghalaya pact, emphasising the need for his state to have its own time zone.
The British were the first to envision a separate time zone in Assam’s tea gardens centuries ago.
According to observers, when the rest of the country and state set out on their daily activities, the lush green tea gardens of Assam would have completed one hour of eventful work, thanks to the British foresight and the continuation of the colonial practice in the estates.
In the tea gardens, “Bagan time” or “local time” is primarily a time zone based on sunrise.
CM Himanta Biswa Sarma’s view on Assam’s Separate Time Zone
“We are in need of a separate time-zone. By the time we are awake and set to work, the sun is over our heads. Today we need a time zone at least a couple of hours ahead and only then can we not only save on our electricity consumption but also improve our health and management.”
“If you see today when we work, we are working virtually at midnight. In an advanced time zone, we will be working and sleeping as per our biological clock. We can have united tourism, a united time-zone, and a united taxation policy. The border disputes and issues are an impediment as there is distrust among people,” said the Assam CM.
Rejection of Separate Time Zone For Northeast Earlier
The Indian government previously denied North East India’s demand for a different time zone than the rest of the country. Various political leaders, organisations, and intellectuals have repeatedly called for a separate time zone for the North East.
The government informed the Lok Sabha on December 20 2018 that a panel formed to investigate establishing a separate time-zone for the northeastern states recommended against it for “strategic reasons.”
Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a written response to a question about demands from northeastern states for a separate time zone that such requests have been made because sunrise and sunset timings in these areas are much earlier than official working hours.
However, there was no mention of when the panel was formed in response to the question. “After considering the issue, the HLC recommended that India not have two time zones for strategic reasons,” he said. According to a senior Ministry of Science and Technology official, the panel was formed several years ago.
Bangladesh and Myanmar, on the other hand, are one hour ahead of Indian Standard Time (IST). The United States has nine time zones, while Australia has three. Indonesia has three time zones as well, while Brazil has four! Currently, IST is calculated using a longitude that passes through Allahabad and is set to UTC plus 5:30 Hrs.
Following independence in 1947, India had three time zones. IST was established as the official time for the entire country of India.
However, Kolkata and Mumbai retained their own local time (known as Kolkata Time and Bombay Time, respectively) until 1948 and 1955.
Currently, tea gardens in Assam adhere to a separate hour zone known as Chaibagaan time (Tea Garden Time), which is one hour ahead of IST.
Main Reason for demanding a different Time Zone
The main reason given for requesting a different time-zone was the loss of daylight hours and excessive electricity consumption.
A different time zone would allow sunsets to occur later, allowing residents to make better use of their daylight hours.
The effect on citizens’ biological clocks was another major reason. The country’s longitudinal extremes are assigned a single time zone, resulting in not only a loss of daylight hours but also problems with the biological clock.
The East-West distance in India is nearly 3000 km, which equates to a time difference of nearly 2 hours. As a result, 6 a.m. in Ahmedabad corresponds to 8 a.m. in Itanagar. In the Northeast, the sun rises as early as four a.m. and sets by four p.m. in the winter.
Many daylight hours have already been lost by the time government offices or educational institutions open. According to calculations, advancing IST by half an hour would result in an annual savings of 2.7 billion units of electricity.
Why does the Central Government reject North East India’s legitimate and logical demands?
Major reasons for refusing to grant different time zones include chaos in railway/airline timings, which could lead to accidents, differences in office/bank timings, which could lead to separatism, and so on.
Since the national anthem does not mention the North East, there was a proposal to include the Brahmaputra in the National Anthem; this demand was also rejected.
By enacting laws in the local assemblies of North East India’s states, we can avoid this centrist authoritarianism.
Delegates Supporting statement for Separate Time Zone for Northeast
As a New Year’s resolution is 2014, the state’s then-chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, proposed a local time zone that would be at least 60 minutes ahead of Indian Standard Time (IST) and help the state save energy by better-utilising sunlight.
Assam’s government offices are open from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. During British rule, India, according to Gogoi, was divided into three time zones: Bombay, Calcutta, and Bagan.
Pema Khandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, demanded a separate time zone for northeastern states in 2017, claiming that several work hours are wasted because offices open late and the sun rises early.
A panel formed to investigate the possibility of establishing a separate hour zone for the northeastern states recommended against it for “strategic reasons.”
In a written response to a question about the request, then-Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that such requests have been made because sunrise and sunset timings in these areas are much earlier than official working hours.
In this issue, “National Physical Laboratory (NPL) published certain reports in scientific journals referring to electricity savings,” Vardhan said. A high-level committee (HLC) comprised of the secretary of the department of science and technology and the chief secretary of Tripura investigated the matter.
According to one estimate, the Northeast has lost 25 years and 10 months of productivity as a result of India’s adherence to a single hour zone since independence. According to some experts, the region will be 54 years behind in productivity in 100 years.
While Russia, the United States, and Canada all have multiple timing zones, India’s neighbour Bangladesh has also advanced its time by 90 minutes. France has 12 time zones, while the United States has 11 and Australia has eight.